A Tip for the Hangman: a Novel by Allison Epstein – A #BookReview – Assassination Thrillers

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five of Five Stars 5 stars 

Book Blurb:

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.

A Trip for the Hangman by Allison EpsteinEngland, 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.

His Review:

Christopher (Kit) Marlowe lived in a time of great intrigue and strife. The throne of England was contested by Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth the First. These cousins both had genealogical claims to the throne. A cobblers’ son attending Cambridge irritated those of means. Intelligence should have not have been the sole criterion for admittance to this austere college and certainly not with a scholarship to afford the tuition.

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison EpsteinKit had another problem, a lack of total subservience to the aristocracy. His humble beginnings were always a thorn of contention and a spear of disdain. As Kit is finishing his Masters’ he is approached by one of the heads of Queen Elizabeth’s spy service. His task was to unravel an intricate series of messages between Mary Queen of Scots and her supporters. Kit had shown himself very adept at breaking foreign syphers.

Christopher Marlowe is also a very prolific playwright. He is thrust into the under-belly of London society to uncover plots against the Queen. Tangled webs of deceit and subterfuge complicate his life and endanger him wherever he goes. Forces beyond his control continue to press him to decipher and expose the potential usurper to the throne. Getting into the good graces and trust of Queen Mary is one of his assignments. He succeeds and Mary is exposed and beheaded.

Kit’s life is complicated by his love for another man, Tom Watson. Love like most other vices tends to skew a persons’ logic. Rather than escape a very dangerous situation love draws them back like a moth to a flame. Others within the Queen’s cadre of spies all vie for the control and top of the heap. Poisonings and daggers in the middle of the night are often the reward for hard and diligent work.

This author has pulled together a very believable narrative with predictable ends. Caring for Kit and his relationships are destroyed by the expectation of the outcome of his labors. The beheading of Mary Queen of Scots and the deaths of many of the spymasters begin to point towards a tragic conclusion. Once one begins to read the book you must see it through to its’ conclusion.

I recommend this book to any history buff. The narrative paints a very pathetic picture of England during the latter part of the sixteenth century. The smells and the religious turmoil caused by a king who wanted to divorce his wife are sad. Beheadings are a common occurrence and hanging is rampant. It is textbook for reasons that people immigrated from the old world to the new world. Enjoy! 5 stars – C.E. Williams

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts. Currently on pre-order.

Book Details:

Genre: Assassination Thrillers, Historical Thrillers
Publisher: Doubleday

  • ASIN : B088F26YSF

Print Length: 384 pages
Publication Date: To be released February 9, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: A Tip for the Hangman
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Allison Epstein - authorThe Author: Allison Epstein is a Michigan native, current Chicagoan, and hopefully someday the owner of a New England lighthouse. She holds an MFA in fiction from Northwestern University and a BA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. Allison works as a marketing copywriter at an agency serving not-for-profit clients. Two of her greatest joys in life are Broadway musicals and puns that get her thrown out of the group chat.

©2020 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams-Christmas hat