A Tip for the Hangman
Christopher Marlowe, a brilliant aspiring playwright, is pulled into the duplicitous world of international espionage on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I. A many-layered historical thriller combining state secrets, intrigue, and romance.
England, 1585. In Kit Marlowe’s last year at Cambridge, he receives an unexpected visitor: Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, who has come with an unorthodox career opportunity. Her Majesty’s spies are in need of new recruits, and Kit’s flexible moral compass has drawn their attention. Kit, a scholarship student without money or prospects, accepts the offer, and after his training the game is on. Kit is dispatched to the chilly manor where Mary, Queen of Scots is under house arrest, to act as a servant in her household and keep his ear to the ground for a Catholic plot to put Mary on the throne.
While observing Mary, Kit learns more than he bargained for. The ripple effects of his service to the Crown are far-reaching and leave Kit a changed man. But there are benefits as well. The salary he earns through his spywork allows him to mount his first play, and over the following years, he becomes the toast of London’s raucous theater scene. But when Kit finds himself reluctantly drawn back into the uncertain world of espionage, conspiracy, and high treason, he realizes everything he’s worked so hard to attain–including the trust of the man he loves–could vanish before his very eyes.
Pairing modern language with period detail, Allison Epstein brings Elizabeth’s privy council, Marlowe’s lovable theater troupe, and the squalor of sixteenth-century London to vivid, teeming life as Kit wends his way behind the scenes of some of Tudor history’s most memorable moments. At the center of the action is Kit himself–an irrepressible, irreverent force of nature. Thrillingly written, full of poetry and danger, A Tip for the Hangman brings an unforgettable protagonist to new life, and makes a centuries-old story feel utterly contemporary.
"A TIP FOR THE HANGMAN presents Marlowe as supremely capable, something of a trickster, a consummate liar, a fiendish lover — and someone capable of murder well before his own disputed demise[...] The suspense is palpable, as is the sense of doom, as Marlowe finds himself in thrall to a devil’s bargain and his own inner demons. Epstein breathes life into a celebrated figure, which makes his demise all the more abrupt and horrific."
"Epstein’s diverting debut gallivants through Elizabethan England...A fun escapade."
“[T]hrilling and romantic[…] Epstein successfully evokes both the beauty and the brutality of 16th-century England.”
"In Epstein’s fun, irreverent debut, [Christopher Marlowe] takes center stage in a spy thriller. The real Marlowe’s plays were incredibly popular in his time, due to his use of exciting plot twists and lots of murder. Epstein presents Marlowe’s story here as the playwright may have told it himself: full of adventure, fun . . . and murder."
"Allison Epstein pens a vivid, unforgettable hero in Kit Marlowe, Elizabethan playwright-turned-spy always sprinting one step ahead of disaster and talking a blue streak as he does so. Recruited by Elizabeth I's spymaster to infiltrate the cabal of Mary Queen of Scots, Kit finds his conscience tested to the limit even as his heart yearns for an unattainable beloved. A Tip for the Hangman is simultaneously moving, unsettling, hilarious, and tragic--a debut that will linger long after the last page is turned."
Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK