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 be able to put the book down while your little grey cells are sopping up the information laid before you as a feast. Your heart will be involved, too.
Bayard constructs two parallel narrative threads, one in 1603 the year Queen Elizabeth died and James I, of strict Christian principals, united the thrones of England and Scotland. The School of Night, taken from Shakespeare's "Love's Labor's Lost" refers to a group of men who met secretly in the early seventeenth century to discuss atheism, alchemy, astronomy and other subjects that would greatly rile King James, hence the secrecy. Christopher Marlow and Walter Raleigh and Henry Earl of Northumberland were three notable members but another member named Thomas Harriot, a genius who was the equal of Galileo, who through a telescope mapped the moon in intricate drawings way ahead of anybody else, is largely unheard of today. Writer Bayard resurrects him and Harriot becomes the protagonist and hero of the first parallel story, a rich, exciting adventure and love story.
The other narrative parallel thread occurs in the present and we follow the escapades of a group of Jacobean scholars with the protagonist being archivist Henry Cavendish, who had been disgraced for falling for a counterfeit document. This group is juggling mysteries concerning a priceless long lost letter by Walter Raleigh, a hidden cache of gold and the legacy of the School of Night members. The thirst for gold and finding the buried treasure is fuellng this somewhat motley group of adventurers. While trying to fit the puzzle together their antics rather remind me of Dan Brown's novels and I have a feeling author Bayard is gently pulling our leg here. Or maybe Dan Brown's leg.
The two parallel stories do not remain isolated from one another. Bayard skillfully entwines them weaves them together, in his word they "fold" together, but seamlessly. Lots of red herrings are strewn in your path and some you may miss as I did which obliged me to go back and see where I stumbled. At the end of the book the two narratives converge but not before you are ushered through plague-.infected London, an absolutely harrowing journey that will leave you shuddering. ..."there is no escaping the sounds A threnody of groans and every so often a brief cry of astonishment, as though death were a kind of pinch."
Two pairs of lovers living four hundred years apart but are they really apart? Is there a precious treasure that is not gold? This novel has everything: murder, suspense, love, history, originality- and beautiful writing. What more could you ask for?
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, … more
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 … more
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.