The Queen’s Gold, by Steven Veerapen

Amie Bawa

The first of a Christopher Marlowe spy thriller series.
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Continuing his passion for sixteenth century history, Steven Veerapen takes the reader on a thrilling adventure with his latest spy novel, The Queen’s Gold. Based on historical figures and events, accompanied with a fast pace and unexpected turns, Veerapen has created a gripping piece of historical fiction.

It is the year 1585 in Elizabethan England, and the rotting remains of The Sparrowhawk, Sir Francis Drake’s lost ship, appear on the shores of Devon. Rumours spread like wildfire regarding the ghost ship – its mariners, the voyage’s destination, but most importantly of all the location of its lost treasure. Oxford student Christopher Marlowe is involved in espionage with the intent to secure the treasure, while his roommate Thomas Lewgar succumbs to his curiosity and joins Marlowe on the search. Veerapen heightens the tension by introducing Henry Howton, a courtier working for the Spanish king who is also in the race to get his hands on the gold first. Thereby, a tale of mystery, deceit and betrayal unravels.

The daring and aspiring playwright Marlowe and the honest, conscientious student Lewgar strike up an unlikely pairing. While their acquaintance does not begin on an upbeat note, Veerapen capitalises on their divergent personalities by crafting comical moments – a technique which seems to come naturally to Veerapen. Veerapen homes in on the development of Marlowe and Lewgar’s relationship, which is placed alongside the central treasure-searching plot line, highlighting each character’s importance and the warming fact that they do indeed make a good team.

In addition to the vibrant protagonists whom the reader can easily connect with and root for, Veerapen’s narrative is alive with detail, allowing an immersive Elizabethan England to arise. Following Marlowe and Lewgar’s journey, as well as Howton’s, the narrative explores the cities of Oxford, London, Devon and Canterbury. Each city is distinctive with its own set of characteristics, varying from splendid university halls and grand courts to run-down pubs and shabby hostels.

Veerapen’s writing style is fast paced without feeling rushed, and where sustained suspense amounts to shocking twists without ever being predictable. The Queen’s Gold is based on episodes of history and Veerapen’s wide research shines through the novel. He possesses an admirable artistry in weaving his research into a unique and gripping story, balancing fact with fiction. Historical fans, thrill seekers or those desiring to decipher a mystery, will most likely revel in reading The Queen’s Gold.