imaginative story that weaves together 16th-century
English politics, modern day high-tech espionage, and
globe-trotting adventures into a tough, thrilling, and
thoroughly exciting ride through history.
of the Month Club
groups will no doubt love following along as first-time
author Silbertthrough the guise of her young private-eye
heroine, Kate Morganunravels one of literary histories
most beguiling and overlooked mysteries, the untimely
and violent death of Christopher Marlowe.
& Noble Book Club
the full book club reviews.
here if youd like Leslie to visit your book
club, by phone, for your discussion of The Intelligencer.
Questions for The Intelligencer
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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
Christopher Marlowe is presented as a complex man: poet,
spy, patriot, friend, and enemy. And while he doesnt
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 maintainsatisfying
his handlers while operating according to his own set
of principlesbut 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
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
Talk about the way that human nature is portrayed in
this novel. Does it seem to change between Marlowes
day and the modern era, or do you see certain commonalities
that transcend time? To what extent do you criticize
a character like Robert Cecil, a man who will do anything
to further his own interests? To what extent is he a
product of his environment? What about his descendant,
Cidro Medina? Do you consider it more forgivable to
be a villain in what some might call a more villainous
While Marlowe and Kate are parallel characters in many
ways, their cultures are not so similar. In fact, some
might say that more comparisons can be made between
Marlowes England and Hamid Azadis Iran.
As noted in chapter 3, beneath the glitter, Elizabethan
England was an ugly police state, a Protestant
theocracy similar in ways to the Islamic theocracy of
todays Iran, which also represses and tortures
religious and political dissidents. Discuss these parallels.
While backstabbing, thievery, and deception have been
the norm for spies since the first days of espionage,
there are glimmers of integrity in some of The Intelligencers
most unscrupulous characters. Even Robert Poley, a man
who seduces married women for sport, is often characterized
in a somewhat positive light: Betrayal might be
his livelihood and greatest form of pleasure, but when
it involved someone he respected, he lost interest.
And beyond that, he wanted to help whoever was trapped
in the tangle of government plotting. What is
your impression of Poleyis he a good man, or an
inherently immoral character? What about Luca de Tolomei?
In many ways, his grief-induced obsession with revenge
is understandable. By the end of the novel, do you think
he feels satisfied, or rather, avenged? Did you still
consider him a villain? Do you see similarities between
his character and that of Robert Poley?
By chapter 24, it is clear that both of Marlowes
employers are trying to bring about his doom. Its
a different story for Kate. Theres no question
that her boss, Jeremy Slade, values her and wants to
protect her. Do you think this is a reflection of certain
differences between the intelligence services in Marlowes
day versus those today? Also, while the actions of Marlowes
bosses are clearly unforgivable, what about the lies
that Jeremy Slade told Kate? Do you think Kate will
forgive him in Silberts next novel? What about
her father, Don Morgan? Now that Kate has had her absolute
trust in her boss shattered, do you think shell
keep working for the Slade Group? Do you think shell
take on Marlowes policy of lying to his superiors
and carrying out assignments how he sees fit?
Late in the novel, as Thomas Phelippes attempts to break
into Essexs bedroom, we learn that, He liked
to surprise people now and then because you didnt
really know someone if you only saw them the way they
wanted to be seen. In what ways might Phelippes
secret habit inform a discussion on the nature of truth?
Is it possible to ever truly know someone youve
never caught in a private moment? Silbert shifts points
of view frequently in this novel, allowing us to get
to know most of the main characters and see the action
and meet others through their eyes. Did you like this
narrative structure? What do you see as its advantages
and disadvantages? Do you think it allows you to more
fully know the characters, than does a novel
told entirely from the first person perspective?
Kate told Medina that while in school, she studied the
pursuit of secrets and forbidden knowledge in the Renaissance,
focusing on the question: What type of knowledge was
the most dangerous to pursue back then and why? Reflecting
back upon the story, and Kates discussion with
Medina from chapter 17 in particular, what would you
say was the most highly protected secret knowledge in
Marlowes day and what is it now? Who pursues it
and who is the most threatened by its exposure? What
is at stake for the pursuer, the government, and the
culture if it is obtained and revealed?
Do you think it significant that the object that sets
the modern-day adventure in motion is nothing more than
an old manuscript? In chapter 7, as Kate and Max consider
who might be trying to steal it, they discuss secrets
with the power to transcend time. Kate speculates that
the manuscript might contain evidence invalidating someones
claim to a valuable estate, while Max wonders if the
secret in the manuscript is something that a government
or church wishes to cover up. Were you surprised to
learn what Jade Dragon was really after? In real life,
do you believe there are secrets having nothing to do
with the prospect of financial gain, for which people
would kill, to keep quiet?
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