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The Intelligencer

The Intelligencer

  • reading group guide
On May 30, 1593, London's most popular playwright was stabbed to death. The royal coroner ruled that Christopher Marlowe was killed in self-defense, but historians have long suspected otherwise, given his role as an "intelligencer" in the queen's secret service.
In sixteenth-century London, Marlowe embarks on his final intelligence assignment, hoping to find his missing muse, as well as the culprits behind a high-stakes smuggling scheme.
In present-day New York, grad student turned private eye Kate Morgan is called in on an urgent matter. One of her firm's top clients, a London-based financier, has chanced upon a mysterious manuscript that had been buried for centuries -- one that someone, somewhere is desperate to steal. What secret lurks in those yellowed, ciphered pages? And how, so many years later, could it drive someone to kill?
As Kate sets off for England, she receives a second assignment. An enigmatic art dealer has made an eleven-million-dollar purchase from an Iranian intelligence officer. Is it a black-market antiquities deal, or something far more sinister? Like Marlowe, Kate moonlights as a spy -- her P.I. firm doubles as an off-the-books U.S. intelligence unit -- and she is soon caught like a pawn in a deadly international game. As The Intelligencer's interlocking narratives race toward a stunning collision, and Kate closes in on the truth behind Marlowe's sudden death, it becomes clear that she may have sealed a similar fate for herself.
Propelling us from the shadows of the sixteenth-century underworld to the glitter of Queen Elizabeth's court, from the dark corridors of a clandestine American op-center to the cliffs of Capri, The Intelligencer is at once a murder mystery, a tale of poetic inspiration, and a richly detailed foray into parallel worlds of espionage and political intrigue separated by centuries.
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  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9780743539302 | 
  • February 2004
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

What, will you thus oppose me, luckless stars...

That I may vanish o'er the earth in air,

And leave no memory that e'er I was?

No, I will live...

-- BARABAS, in Marlowe's The Jew of Malta

SOUTHWARK, ENGLAND -- DUSK, MAY 1593

His rendezvous was set for nightfall and the sun was sinking quickly. The young man had no time to spare. But as he neared London Bridge, the familiar sounds along that particular stretch of the Thames were hard to resist. His pace slowed. His ears perked up. The clamor of the bear-baiting arena beckoned -- a chained bear howling as canine jaws tore at its... see more

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions for The Intelligencer
1) The action in this novel moves rapidly between Elizabethan England and modern times, shifting centuries with each chapter. How did this atypical structure affect your reading of the story? What does the juxtaposition of two time periods offer that novels confined to one period do not?
2) Christopher Marlowe is presented as a complex man: poet, spy, patriot, friend, and enemy. And while he doesn't follow many rules, his ultimate commitment to doing what he thinks is right never wavers. This becomes clear in chapter six: "It was a delicate balance to maintain-satisfying his handlers while operating according to his own set of principles-but somehow, he was managing it." What do you think of this policy? Given that Marlowe knows his delicate balancing act is "doomed to an unpleasant end," why does he persist? Would you?
3) Kate admits that she has always admired "the Cat," the burglar who initially tried to steal the manuscript. The Cat was described as a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving the proceeds to charity. Do you think Kate would ever change teams and become a thief herself? She seems to relish the thrill of thwarting the bad guys; do you see her getting involved in other, perhaps not so legal, work? Do the connections between her character and the character of Marlowe help to answer this question?
4) Talk about the way that human nature is portrayed in this novel. Does see more

About the Author

Leslie Silbert
Photo Credit:

Leslie Silbert

Leslie Silbert graduated from Harvard with a bachelor's and master's degree in the History of Science and studied Renaissance literature at Oxford. She works as a private investigator in New York City under the guidance of a former CIA officer and is currently writing her second Kate Morgan novel. For more information, please visit www.lesliesilbert.com.

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