Leslie Silbert

"The Intelligencer"

(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer MAY 15, 2004)

Kit Marlowe, aside from being a famous playwright, is also one of Queen Elizabeth’s best spies. There are two spy networks in place...those answering to the Earl of Essex, the other to Robert Cecil, and although both are supposed to be working for the same side, Kit will soon learn that at least one of them is willing to stoop to treachery to gain the coveted post of Secretary of State and thus the Queen’s ear.

In modern times, Kate Morgan, a private eye who moonlights as a spy, is trying to help figure out why someone is willing to hire a professional thief to steal a newly found Renaissance manuscript. She, also being an expert in this area, (particularly where it touches the spy network of that time) has already figured out that it was a book created by Tomas Phelippes, a senior officer in the spy network who stole a bunch of important reports and had them bound, then hid. These documents are in code, and so she has to translate them, all the while half heartedly fighting off the amorous advances of the extremely sexy Cidro Medina, a rich playboy who acts like he could reform his ways for her, and tracking down Luca de Tolomei, a man with shady connections who has just sent over eleven million dollars to an Iranian intelligence officer.

In many ways, this is two books in one as the stories of Kit and Kate run side by side, intertwining in interesting ways. For instance, in Kate's story we’ll have a scene with a ship’s captain, worrying over the box he’s about to transfer to another boat, then we go back to 1583, where another boat master faces a similar dilemma. A lot of things in the two stories echo each other...even Kit and Kate have some similar qualities. This clever mirroring of the two stories gives the book a very strong sense of unity...and, of course, it’s fun to contrast modern espionage with Elizabethan methods, especially when they are not really that different. It’s also fun to play with the real life drama of Christopher Marlowe...his death, a knife in the eye during a tavern argument over money, never quite added up and has interested historians for years. An effective spy, many think he got in the way of one of the powerful men I mentioned earlier...and paid the price for it. Silbert’s take on what really might have happened is well researched and makes sense.

For her part, Kate also has some fascinating aspects to her. I love the idea of a PI firm that doubles as a secret intelligence unit, and think the way she handles both aspects of her job is straight forward and smart. She’s very likable...she’s one of those people who thinks very quickly on her feet, whether it be in a nifty comeback or needing to act in life or death situation.

An intelligent and cleverly written spy story, The Intelligencer has some interesting reversals and wonderful locations. It seems likely that there will be subsequent book. It is not so much as that there are loose ends -- the book is completely finished -- but that they’re not tied off, rather, tucked in. I’m hoping that she spins another story off of these threads, because there are some questions I’d love to have answered, mainly for the pleasure of reading more.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 24 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Intelligencer at the author's website

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)


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About the Author:

author photoLeslie 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.

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