The Mysterious Press
The Mysterious Press
The Mysterious Press

The Empire of Night

by Robert Olen Butler

In the thrilling third installment of the Christopher Marlowe Cobb series, Kit discovers a secret plan to transform Zeppelins into dangerous killing machines—and to turn the tide of war in Germany’s favor.

  • Imprint The Mysterious Press
  • Page Count 416
  • Publication Date October 13, 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2426-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

In the first two books of his acclaimed Christopher Marlowe Cobb series, The Hot Country and The Star of Istanbul, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler captured the hearts of historical crime fiction fans with the artfulness of his World War I settings and his charismatic leading man, a Chicago journalist recruited by American intelligence.

In The Empire of Night, it is 1915, and President Woodrow Wilson is still assessing the war’s threat to the United States. After proving himself during the Lusitania mission, Kit is now a full-blown spy, working undercover in a castle on the Kentish coast owned by a suspected British government mole named Sir Albert Stockman. And Kit is again thrown together with a female spy—his own mother, the beautiful and mercurial Isabel Cobb, who also happens to be a world-famous stage actress. Starring in a touring production of Hamlet, Isabel’s offstage role is to keep tabs on the supposed mole, an ardent fan of hers, while Kit tries to figure out Stockman’s secret agenda. Following his mother and her escort from the relative safety of Britain into the lion’s den of Berlin, Kit must remain in character, even under the very nose of the Kaiser.


“Butler combines fascinating historical detail about the pre-WWI period with genuine suspense and a tongue-in-cheek wit that gives the whole a uniquely tart flavor. The multilayered, adversarial relationship between Kit and Isabel grows more fascinating with each installment and will leave readers eager to learn more.” —Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)

“[A] thrilling historical series. . . . Mr. Butler does a terrific job of depicting both the journalist’s facility for teasing information from his subjects and the spy’s incessant fear of being discovered. There’s something almost magical about the way the author re-creates this 1915 milieu.” —Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

The Empire of Night is a smart and layered yarn . . . propulsive reading . . . Butler has developed a knack for snapping off taut, Hammett-esque sentences at tense moments. . . . Butler is determined to show that genre fiction can be intellectually rich.” —Mark Athitakis, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

“In the hands of a great writer and storyteller like Butler, the synthesis of character and plot is a sublime combination.” —Steven Jay Grifffel, Stay Thirsty

“[An] elegant thriller. . . . A meticulously researched page-turner that will appeal to spy novel buffs and lovers of historical novels, as well as any general reader intrigued with the power struggles of World War I. If you’ve never read a novel by Butler—one of the great stylists writing today—you’re in for a treat with The Empire of Night.” —David M. Kinchen, Huntington News

“Exciting . . . the period details are spot on. . . . This tale of shifting allegiances and worldwide consequences enthralls.” —Publishers Weekly

“Deliciously captivating. . . . I can hardly wait for the next in the series.” —Brenda Repland, Arab Voice

“[A] deliciously captivating thriller. . . . I can hardly wait for the next in the series.” —Brenda Repland, Arabian Forum

“The Cobb books are historical fiction, abounding in carefully researched details and lively with vivid characters and clever, whiz-bang adventure plots. . . . The Empire of Night is a cracking good spy thriller, with a cast of memorable characters and a terrifically suspenseful plot that will have you casting the movie as you read. And Butler’s elegant writing elevates the book—he is a master of everything from lyrical description to believable dialogue.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“As usual, Butler immerses us in the time period. . . . [His] in-depth description of a Zeppelin is spot on . . . the noise, the smells, the interior and exterior details, the lift of it as the Zeppelin rises into the air. Butler’s continuous pressure on the suspense makes the novel a page-turning, nail-biting experience, and his use of short, crisp sentences magnifies the tension.” —Brenda Lloyd, Readers Unbound

“An engrossing thriller. Cobb’s traversal of the German countryside is tension-laden, and the finale wrongfoots with unexpected twists. Well-acted, center-stage entertainment.” —Bart King, Crime Book Beat


I know a Stage Door Johnnie when I see one, and I know a tough guy. This was no Johnnie. I had my reasons not to look at the facade of the Duke of York’s and perhaps that’s how I came to notice him down the alleyway on the south side of the theater. The midsummer’s late sunlight was almost gone and the play-going crowd was hubbubbing at the front doors, and here was this lurker in the shadows, around the corner, on the way to where only the company of actors was supposed to go. He’d crammed a bouncer’s body into a three-piece serge and his trilby hat was pulled down and tipped forward.

I gave off pretty much the same impression, I realized, but I wouldn’t want to see somebody like me down this alley either. He was turned sideways and looking in my direction, probably thinking similar thoughts.

There was nothing to do about it.

Sniffing around on the sly for my government while still trying to more or less sniff the same way for my newspaper had made me excessively suspicious of my fellow man.