I thought of all of this as I lay in the high, damp grass of the churchyard, listening for the sound of pursuers. Tiny insects plied their trades, bustling to and fro like costermongers setting up stall on market day. The smell of earth and meadows reminded me of childhood and I remembered listening to my brothers’ calls as they searched for me one long hot afternoon. I’d watched them from my hiding place, refusing to be found, relishing the power concealment brought. It was a long time since I’d thought of those days and the remembrance added to my unease, for surely every man remembers his beginnings when he is about to die.
I had two reasons for picking this book: 1. The reference to Marlowe (author of Tamburlaine the Great) and 2. that cover.
Other than that I knew nothing about the book when starting this.
As it turns out, this is a novella about the last few days in Christopher Marlowe’s life but it is also story of crime, plague, vengeance, betrayal, and a ultimately also a bit of a mystery.
There were a few things that didn’t work for me: we’re thrown right into the story, without any introduction, and the speed of the story seems to just rush through events.
Now part of the problem I had may have been because this is such a short work. It could have done with more … story, more time to unfold the story.
However, part of what I liked about it, too, was that it was pacy and seemed to have been told in haste, which makes perfect sense by the end of the book.
In any case, I look forward to reading more by Welsh. I really appreciated her tone and interjection of a somewhat poetic style which, no doubt, was to fit with Marlowe as the narrator. I really want to find out how her writing compares in other books, and whether / how she develops her characters in full-length novels.
Last night I received a summons to a house in Deptford. There I will be held to accounts, which cannot be squared. Life is frail and I may die today. But Tamburlaine knows no fear. My candles are done, the sky glows red and it looks as if the day is drenched in blood. I finish this account and prepare for battle in the sureness that life is the only prize worth having and the knowledge that there are worse fates than damnation. If these are the last words I write, let them be,
A Curse on Man and God.