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The School of Night

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  1,011 ratings  ·  193 reviews

An ancient mystery, a lost letter, and a timeless love unleash a long-buried web of intrigue that spans four centuries

In the late sixteenth century, five brilliant scholars gather under the cloak of darkness to discuss God, politics, astronomy, and the black arts. Known as the School of Night, they meet in secret to avoid the wrath of Queen Elizabeth. But one of the men,

Hardcover, 338 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,146)
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Will Byrnes
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
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
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
May 17, 2011 Lisa added it
Shelves: arc, fiction
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

“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
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
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
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
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
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. (
Megan Chance
I think I've read all of Louis Bayard's books. When I opened this one, I found myself relaxing into it immediately, the way you do when you recognize a good writer and feel you're in good hands. This book was perhaps a bit less high drama than some of his others, which I wouldn't say was a flaw. It felt quieter. I enjoyed it very much, despite guessing several aspects of the ending, and the secret, well in advance. But good characterizations, excellent research, and an interesting story.
A new Louis Bayard mystery is an event for me, and this one didn't disappoint. He experiments a little with his settings, and is clearly trying to push himself. All his previous books have been set entirely in the past; this one cuts back and forth with some interesting stylistic distinctions between the passages (the 17th-century scenes are all written in present tense; the 2009 scenes are all in the past tense, etc.). Bayard is a master of the flawed-but-sweet protagonist, and as always I enjo ...more
I read The Pale Blue Eye by Bayard first and was very impressed with the historical aspects of the book, the characters he created, and the world they inhabited. Upon finishing the book, I wanted to read his other works. This is the second book I've read and am somewhat disappointed after reading his other work first. To begin with, this book is only somewhat historical. While it draws upon history, it is set in the present. It lacks the depth and fullness of his other story. It is also somewhat ...more
Lisa Guidarini
I wrote a long-winded review on my blog, but here I'll just summarize. Intertwining plots, one current day about two book collectors willing to go to almost any length to have a complete letter believed to have been written by Sir Walter Raleigh. Second plot-line Elizabethan, Thomas Harriot (real-life Elizabethan scientist) working on inventions in his laboratory. Book collectors believe, due to an obscure reference in the half of the letter they have seen, Harriot's buried treasure somewhere. B ...more
Jordan Dossett
Ok, if we were able to give 1/2 stars I would have given this 3.5 stars. I have to say that the first 1/2 was really amazing, the second 1/4 dragged and then the last 1/4 everything came together to the point of being frustrated, shocked and angry. It was a good book and I do recommend it as a read but sometimes I felt like I was watching those National Treasure movies that have been popular these days with Nicolas Cage. The biggest disappointment for me was that everything in the book comes tog ...more
I wanted to love this book so much but, alas poor Bayard, I did not. I love early modern European historical fiction so much, and most of the action for the modern-day half of this book takes place pratically in my backyard. Bayard writes many beautiful passages but the half of the book that takes place in 2009 Washington,DC left me wanting better execution of plot and characters. I felt like I was reading National Treasure, only instead of Nicholas Cage we have a horny, self-pitting, disgraced ...more
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Camy Tang/Camille...: What are you reading this week? 208 41 Apr 25, 2013 03:22PM  
An Actually Book ...: July 2012: The School of Night 1 3 Jul 15, 2012 03:44AM  
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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.
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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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