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, it seems, had stolen an ancient letter, purportedly written by Raleigh, which refers somewhat cryptically to the School. A check in the amount of $10,000 convinces Henry that he might be able to recover the letter and return it to Styles.
What follows is an engrossing tale involving parallel story lines and characters (17th century and modern), which in turn becomes an adventure, a murder mystery, a treasure hunt (complete with enigmatic map), and a love story. Deftly plotted and beautifully written, The School of Night overflows with energy, buffeting surprises, and several double twists that make it difficult to put this book down. Other enticements include a meticulous depiction of a slice of Elizabethan life, vivid characters and dialogue, and a couple of ingenious revelations at the end that open minds to previously unrecognized possibilities. Louis Bayard has become one of my favorite writers for his rich prose, solid research, and amazing ability to draw readers into the world of his characters.
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 … 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
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
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.