Picks and Pans Review: The Intelligencer

updated 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Leslie Silbert

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In the 16th century, famed playwright Christopher Marlowe has a hush-hush day job, working undercover as Queen Elizabeth's royal spy. Fast-forward to New York City today, when a feisty, athletic young detective named Kate Morgan accidentally unravels the unsolved mystery of Marlowe's death.

Mystery buffs will devour this one, loaded as it is with spies, gadgets and stolen gemstones. These are all familiar ingredients, but Silbert, herself once a Renaissance scholar at Oxford and today a private investigator, also tosses in intriguing historical research about Shakespearean-era London and even a whiff of The Da Vinci Code—there's a rare manuscript locked away for centuries that destroys anyone unlucky enough to uncover its secret. Now and then, things get a tad far-fetched as we hop back and forth from the present to 1593, from England to Italy, Tunisia and the USA, and many characters are too sketchy to make an impression. But The Intelligencer has plenty of smarts.

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