A Fine Madness


Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s exact contemporary and sometime collaborator, was the leading playwright of his day whose dramatic verse and themes – political power, the power of love and the route to damnation – transformed English theatre. His Doctor Faustus was the first great dramatic rendering of the Faust legend. Probably an atheist, probably a spy and possibly gay, he lived and wrote as a literary Caravaggio until killed in a knife-fight he had himself provoked, aged 29. Alan Judd’s perfectly poised and breathtakingly suspenseful novel subtly delineates the strands of that life, physical and spiritual, showing how they coalesce in a death that remains mysterious and controversial.




‘Absolutely spellbinding. I gobbled it up in two days and could not stop’ Miranda Seymour
A remarkable and meticulously researched novel from award-winning writer Alan Judd, exploring the life of literary genius Kit Marlowe, whose violent death compose one of the most fascinating unresolved mysteries of all time.  
In Elizabethan England, the Queen’s chief spymaster, Francis Walsingham, and his team of agents must maintain the highest levels of vigilance to ward off Catholic plots and the ever-present threat of invasion.
One agent in particular – a young Cambridge undergraduate of humble origins, controversial beliefs and literary genius who goes by the name of Kit Marlowe – is relentless in his pursuit of intelligence for the Crown. When he is killed outside an inn in Deptford, his mysterious death becomes the subject of rumours and suspicion that are never satisfactorily resolved.
Years later, when Thomas Phelippes, a former colleague of Marlowe’s, finds himself imprisoned in the Tower, there is one thing that could give him his freedom back. He must give the king every detail he is able to recall about his murdered friend’s life and death. But why is King James so fascinated about Kit Marlowe – and does Phelippes know enough to secure his own redemption?
Praise for A Fine Madness
‘A masterful storyteller with an intricate knowledge of his subject’ The Daily Telegraph 
‘Alan Judd knows more about the secret world than any other writer living. To have him turn his expert eye on the world of Christopher Marlowe – and on Francis Walsingham, the Elizabethan George Smiley – is a special kind of literary treat.‘ Mick Herron

‘Well-researched splice of fiction and historical fact… A vivid tale of espionage, dissent and intellectual discourse, with the past brought to teeming, pungent life” GUARDIAN

‘Judd skilfully evokes the atmosphere of suspicion and fear…convincing portrait of the mercurial dramatist while still allowing Marlowe to remain something of the enigma he has always been’ Sunday Times

‘At the heart of this spy novel stands the mercurial, enigmatic figure of Christopher Marlowe, whose premature death is a tavern brawl has proven an enduring mystery… drawing on the real records of Marlowe’s death and the secret service to craft a gripping story’ BBC History Magazine

‘Judd keeps us guessing until the last pages of this taut, clever, thought-provoking thriller.’ The Spectator


Additional information

Weight 0.368 kg
Dimensions 21.6 × 13.5 × 2.2 cm






ix, 240




Hardback original


823.92 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K


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