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The past is prologue

  • Mar 21, 2011
  • by
This a well-written and very exciting book. It moves between the present and the early 17th century. The central part of the puzzle that is the engine behind the plot is the second page of a letter from Sir Walter Ralegh to a friend. In it he mentions a School of Night. Apparently this school was composed of some of the leading intellectuals of the Elizabethan era, and they got together to spend hours discussing various topics, including religion. The author posits that it may have been his membership in the School of Night which led to Raleigh's imprisonment and eventual death.

The 20th century portion of the book centers around a disgraced scholar of the times in question, who is involved in trying to decipher obscure and encrypted clues on the back if the page mentioned above, which appears to indicate that it contains clues to a great treasure. The plot goes on from there, and moves along swiftly. There are several deaths, an apparent suicide, a loves story with a questionable female, and a pursuit by a somewhat shady antiquities collector determined to recover the page which he considers his property.

Once again, to tell more of the plot would be to destroy the enjoyment of reading this book to future readers. All I will say is that everything is not necessarily what it seems, and pay careful attention to every character's actions and, often, words. I think you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

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More The School of Night: A Novel reviews
review by . April 02, 2011
A delicious mystery!
   As a writer of historical fiction mysteries, Louis Bayard has reached the top pinnacle of this genre. This guy can WRITE. Not only is his narrative exciting, fascinating and extremely erudite, he has a fine feel for words. He sprinkles a delicious sense of humor like icing on a cake everywhere as he takes you on this fabulous adventure both in the present and back in time. Bayard manages to both entertain and educate and you will come away from this novel a lot wiser but you won't …
review by . June 08, 2011
Disgraced Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish first learned about The School of Night from his close friend Alonzo Wax. In the 1600's, a group of English freethinkers, among them Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Harriott, Walter Raleigh, and William Shakespeare, met clandestinely to discuss such forbidden topics as atheism, science, and alchemy. Now, having attended Alonzo's memorial service, Henry is disconcerted by a proposition put to him by a noted book collector, Bernard Styles. Alonzo, …
About the reviewer
Frank J. Konopka ()
Ranked #93
I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
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Starred Review. Bayard (The Black Tower) shifts smoothly between present-day America and Elizabethan England in this superb intellectual thriller. At the Washington, D.C., funeral of document collector Alonzo Wax, who committed suicide, Bernard Styles, an elderly Englishman and rival collector, approaches Henry Cavendish, an Elizabethan scholar and the executor of Wax's estate, whose academic reputation suffered grievous harm after he authenticated a new Walter Ralegh poem that was later exposed as a hoax. Styles offers Cavendish ,000 to locate a prize Wax had borrowed, a recently discovered Ralegh letter that may prove the existence of the School of Night, a secret debating club whose members included playwright Christopher Marlowe. Murder complicates the search for the letter. The author's persuasive portrayal of undeservedly obscure real-life scientist Thomas Harriot, a member of the school, enhances a plot with intelligence and depth. (Apr.)
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ISBN-10: 080509069X
ISBN-13: 978-0805090697
Author: Louis Bayard
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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"The past is prologue"
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