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The School of Night

3.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,104 Ratings  ·  206 Reviews
When Henry Cavendish attends the funeral of an old friend, the last thing he expects is to be given a business proposition. A handsome sum to retrieve a document that was in his friend's possession when he died - a letter from Sir Walter Ralegh. Henry accepts the challenge, despite severe misgivings about his sinister new employer.
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by John Murray Publishers (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,371)
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Will Byrnes
Jan 06, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was difficult to believe that Alonzo Wax was dead. A collector extraordinaire, books, papers, antiquities, he was also a tornado of a personality, and seemed rather an unlikely suicide. His friend, Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish, is surprised to learn that he has been named executor of Alonzo’s estate. Soon after, the sinister Mr. Styles seeks him out, eager to retrieve from Alonzo’s estate a document that he claims Alonzo stole (think Sydney Greenstreet) from him. The large gentleman ac ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Katie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So I haven't finished this book, but reading it is setting my teeth on edge.

1. I hate Elizabethan conspiracy theories. Most offensive among these is the ridiculous idea that the man we know as William Shakespeare did not write the works of William Shakespeare, but this School of Night bullshit isn't that far behind. Could these men have known each other? Yes, although to my knowledge Marlowe did not socialize with men like Raleigh and Percy, who were courtiers and members of the nobility. Havin
Nov 21, 2010 Jacqie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've really loved the Louis Bayard books I've read in the past, so I was pretty excited about this galley. Sadly, this book does not live up to his other efforts. I think the problem is that he's trying to keep two story threads going, and one of them is not as engaging as the other. The book starts in the present time, just after a funeral for the narrator's good friend. There's a purloined letter, a scholarly reputations in ruins, a secret code, and a mysterious woman. Seems like the right mix ...more
The School of Night by Louis Bayard has a really interesting premise. He starts with a secret society made up of Sir Walter Raleigh (oops, Ralegh--don't ask me why we've decided to ditch the "I"), Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, Thomas Harriot and others....the School of Night. A group of men who dare to think about such forbidden topics as alchemy and paganism, who question the existence of God and the meaning of life. In modern times, a page of a letter from Raleigh to Harriot comes to light and wi ...more
Joanne Moyer
I noticed that a few reviewers gave The School of Night a low rating because they felt it wasn't as good as other Louis Bayard books they'd read. If that's the case, I can't wait to read them because I thought School was great. Part historical fiction, part thriller, treasure hunt, love story, secret societies ~ it's got it all. The story goes back and forth between 2009 and Elizabethan England with the current day characters trying to solve a mystery left by the characters from the past. You'll ...more
In 16th century England, a group of noted Elizabethan scholars gathered in secret to discuss potentially heretical ideas; this group is known to modern historians as the “School of Night.” 400 years later, Henry Cavendish and his friend Alonzo Wax sought to create such a philosophical school of their own. Years later, Alonzo is dead and has named disgraced academic Henry the executor of his affairs. On the day of Alonzo’s funeral, Henry is approached by noted book collector Bernard Styles regard ...more
Amy Lignor
Apr 02, 2012 Amy Lignor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alonzo Wax has taken his own life and his friends have gathered to say goodbye. Apparently this scholar and Elizabethan collector decided to jump off a bridge, leaving a final message with certain people - including his once close friend, Henry Cavendish - that read: The School of Night is back in business.

Henry is amazed as he sits with the funeral party thinking over is past relationship with Alonzo, wondering why such an energetic man would simply call it a day. When a woman dressed in scarle
Jun 02, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers, fiction
A fun thriller centered around another gaggle of modern-day book hunters (Elizabethan and Shakespearean this time around) and their 17th-century quarry. The contemporary protagonist is Henry Cavendish, a likable and scholarly loser surrounded by friends who may or may not share his goals. And who may not be his friends at all, for that matter. The part of the story set in the early 1600s revolves around Thomas Harriot, a close friend of Walter Raleigh and beer buddy of Christopher Marlowe and th ...more
Jul 20, 2011 Jaclyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The School of Night has everything it takes to be a bestseller: plot twists (one too many, in fact), present-day sex, 16th-century sex, a giant Scandinavian named Halldor, a possibly murderous book collector - bet you never heard that one before! - and an ancient mystery that poses real danger to contemporary characters. It reminded me very much of The Da Vinci Code, only the ancient mystery was not religious.

Here's the premise: Henry Cavendish is "a disgraced Elizabethan scholar" whose best fri
Aug 27, 2011 Deb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed all of Bayard's historical thrillers, but this one disappointed me. He took an interesting historical premise: a secretive group of humanist thinkers meeting to discuss radical ideas in science, religion and politics - and Da Vinci Coded it up with a cardboard villain, his hulking sidekick, and too many improbable feats of derring-do. I know the reading public loves a fast-paced book, but this one bought its fast pace at the expense of the development of a truly intriguing story. ...more
Apr 15, 2016 Tweetybird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book ... decided to read it after I read and thoroughly enjoyed the second in the 'All Souls Trilogy' written by historian and author Deborah Harkness. Her 'Shadow of Night' set in Elizabethan England touched upon this band of famous men, and prompted me to seek out other historical fiction on the subject. I felt thorougly engrossed in the time and place, and well-educated on these seemingly forgotten historical figures (especially Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Thomas Harrio ...more
While this book leans heavily on the fiction side of historical fiction, I found it an enjoyable read and tried not to be bothered with the liberties it takes with history. I really liked the main characters, for all their flaws, and thought the plot moved along quickly. (I'd would find that I had read 40 pages in less than a half an hour.) The book does a good job balancing the parts set in the present and on the past, and I found that I liked both eras equally, which is unusual for me with a b ...more
Daniel Rudge
Witty and intelligent prose cannot overcome unlikable, bombastic characters and an uninteresting plot in Bayard's The School of Night. Perhaps Bayard got too involved in bringing life to one of history's most underrated scientist, Thomas Harriot, but the juxtaposition of the modern day story line with the historical story line made the book choppy. The only real mystery/suspense in this read was whether or not I would finish the book. After the final word was read, I wish I had given up. If you ...more
Wayland Smith
This was a bit of an odd book. It has a mild supernatural element to it... if one of the characters is telling the truth. It's sort of a murder mystery, with a lot of odd twists. There is intrigue ranging from modern day Washington DC, London, and the English countryside, to that same English countryside in the early 1600's. Many famous people are mentioned and some even play bit parts. Among the well known names are William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe.

Henry is a cla
This is more like 2 1/2 stars.

I enjoyed the first half of this book, but really struggled through the second and started getting bored. I read this because I was curious to read books set in Elizabethan England and I did enjoy the flashbacks from the present to that time period the most.

The writing itself was nice, although I could tell the author is a journalist. I think I can lay claim to a fairly decent vocabulary, but I frequently encountered words in here I'd never heard before, let alone k
Holli Larimore
Mar 04, 2015 Holli Larimore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Sadly, I bought this book years ago and just now got around to reading it. But once I started reading it, I was done in a few days. This book combines historical fiction with a modern mystery and romance. The characters are interesting, and I honestly was not sure where the ending was going. It had some nice twists and turns without being annoying. If you are an English Lit major or buff of any kind, especially about British Early Modern Literature, this b ...more
Jan 12, 2016 Rebecca marked it as never-finished  ·  review of another edition
This one just didn't grab me, alas. I liked the idea, but it has a slow and rather depressing start, and I couldn't see it getting any more cheerful.
May 18, 2015 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 rounded up to a GR 4 stars

A fun read, in the vein of The Da Vinci Code, only much better written. This book's focus is on the mysterious goings on of The School of the Night--a group of Shakespeare's contemporaries who dared to meet and explore ideas that could (and would) make them outcasts in society. There's a potential hidden treasure and codes to be broken. And lots of twists and turns along the way. So, overall, it's a pretty hard book to set down. I especially like how the author mov
Feb 29, 2016 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Louis Bayard is a real find. He was interviewed for a friend's blog (Jungle Red Writers--Hallie Ephron and I tried one of his books - The Pale Blue Eye, with Edgar Allen Poe as a central character. What a smart, clever author! Many of his books focus on a time or a character we think we know, and he turns it all upside down and inside out. Love him. He also writes a deliciously snarky day-after summary of Downton Abbey for the New York Times. Check out any of his books --I recommend Mr. ...more
After really enjoying Bayard's The Black Tower, I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately the story just felt flat to me. The book centers around a letter apparently written by Walter Raleigh in the early 1600s. Henry Cavendish is an Elizabethan expert, but he's already been burned by one fake Raleigh document, and isn't thrilled to get involved with another. But he may not have a choice. The letter was supposedly in the possession of Henry's friend Alonzo when Alonzo committed suicide. Now ...more
Janette Fleming
Dec 30, 2011 Janette Fleming rated it liked it

“A shared quest and a mysterious cabal, four centuries apart . . .

When Henry Cavendish attends the funeral of an old friend, the last thing he expects is to be given a business proposition. A handsome sum to retrieve a document that was in his friend’s possession when he died ; a letter from Sir Walter Ralegh. Henry accepts the challenge, despite severe misgivings about his sinister new employer.

Four centuries earlier, in Elizabethan England, another quest is playing out. Thomas Harriot,
The School of Night by Louis Bayard straddles three genres - mystery, historical fiction, and adventure. Elizabethan historian Henry Cavendish has just lost his best friend, Alonzo Wax, who is an avaricious collector of historical manuscripts. At Wax's funeral, Henry is approached by another collector who says that Wax was in possession of the first page of a letter from Walter Raleigh which rightfully belongs to him. He offers to pay Henry to find and return it.

There are a couple of murders al
Louis Bayard avoids mediocrity in this rendition of love, murder, hidden treasures, alchemy and paranormal experiences. Not only does the reader get a history lesson on the life, times and plethora of scientific discoveries of Thomas Herriot (a name previously unknown to me) the author also manages to deftly merge contemporary and historical storylines to produce a tale rooted in two different centuries and bound together to produce a superb intellectual thriller that is guaranteed to engage eve ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Miles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
In a perfect and indolent reviewing world (and an the inevitable excuse for brevity) I would sum up Louis Bayard’s “The School of Night” with the following:

“Stunning, simply stunning”

However, a book of this quality doesn’t deserve such an inconsequential review and with this in mind I will continue!

Confession, they say, is good for the soul and the opening line had me vexed!

“Against all odds, against my own wishes, this is a love story. And it began, of all places, at Alonzo Wax’s funeral. “

I w
Jul 29, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every book I've read by Louis Bayard I seem to love. His writing always propels me to wherever the story is. This story is set both in 2009 and in 1603. I thought the transition between the time periods superbly done. I had no confusion as to when or what was going on. This book seems to be more of a modern day chase to find a lost treasure, but it also gives an idea into the life of Thomas Harriot. In the present Henry Cavendish, a man with nothing left to lose, is grieving the loss of the one ...more
Although some of the denouments were predictable (even with the two or three twists), the overall story was interesting. I doubt I could have told anyone much about Thomas Harriot prior to reading the novel, so it was great to become just a bit more familiar with him - even if a great portion of his charcterization was fictional. I also thought the main contemporary character, Henry, was interesting; though I wish the whole romantic storyline hadn't happened. It's not that I hated the character ...more
Dec 19, 2013 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this quite a bit. A good parallel pair of stories one set in the time of Walter Ralegh and Kit Marlowe, and the other in the present. A well-writted, exciting and clever book.

I've read other books by this author and enjoyed them all. He has a wonderful sense of humour in his writing - the characters all have an irreverant, quirky approach and are unique and interesting.

Writing a dual story can either be done really well, or go very wrong. Bayard does it well. He manages to capture the
Jun 19, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more

This is my first Louis Baynard book and I really enjoyed it. I love historical fiction, adventure, and romance and this book had all three elements. This book reminded me of the movie National Treasure in that it involves academic type people in search for an object of historical significance. It even reminded a little Indiana Jones, Last Crusade as well *spoiler alert* when Claire reveals what side she is on. Claire reminded me of Elsa in the movie.

The plot of the book revolves around a disgrac
Mary Bloodworth
May 02, 2011 Mary Bloodworth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Louis Bayard for writing another historical mystery! It was truly fun to read this, and the wait was worth it.

Unfortunately, I can't do much summarizing of the story because the twists and turns begin shortly into the book, and I don't want to give anything away. The main character is Henry Cavendish, a down on his luck professor. His college friend Alonzo Wax has killed himself, and Henry is appointed the executor of the estate. Alonzo was an eccentric book and manuscript collector. (
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A staff writer for, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post,, and Preservation, among others. Bayard lives in Washington, D.C.
More about Louis Bayard...

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“Such a nice little pastiche. Of course, a true Elizbethan theater wouldn't have a roof, would it? Or such comfortable chairs. All the same quite charming.I wonder what play they're putting on now?

Oh, its ... Love's Labour Lost.

Well, isn't that apropos?

Is it?

I wonder if it's modern dress. No, I don't wonder at all.On that particular question, I have been quite driven from the firld. Everywhere one goes now it's Uzis at Agincourt, Imogen in jeans, the Thane of Cawdor in a three-button suit. Nest thing you know, Romeo and Julie will simply text each other. Damn the balcony. OMG,Romeo. ILY 24-7.”
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