The School of Night: Book summary and reviews of The School of Night by Louis Bayard

The School of Night

A Novel

By Louis Bayard

The School of Night
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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, Thomas Harriot, has secrets of his own, secrets he shares with one person only: the servant woman he loves.

In modern-day Washington, D.C., disgraced Elizabethan scholar Henry Cavendish has been hired by the ruthless antiquities collector Bernard Styles to find a missing letter. The letter dates from the 1600s and was stolen by Henry's close friend, Alonzo Wax. Now Wax is dead and Styles wants the letter back.

But the letter is an object of interest to others, too. It may be the clue to a hidden treasure; it may contain the long-sought formula for alchemy; it most certainly will prove the existence of the group of men whom Shakespeare dubbed the School of Night but about whom little is known. Joining Henry in his search for the letter is Clarissa Dale, a mysterious woman who suffers from visions that only Henry can understand. In short order, Henry finds himself stumbling through a secretive world of ancient perils, caught up in a deadly plot, and ensnared in the tragic legacy of a forgotten genius.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. 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." - Publishers Weekly

"There's one nice thing about literary puzzles - the clues don't normally involve bloody pentacles or symbolically displayed body parts. A few codes and cryptograms are all you need to get caught up in an enigmatic mystery like The School of Night… the story is fascinating." - New York Times

"Although not quite as gripping as The Black Tower (2008), Bayard's latest is considerably more humorous in tone as he interweaves the antic comedy of the modern-day caper with the tragic and affecting love story of the past." - Booklist

"This is a compelling literary thriller featuring an actual yet relatively unknown scholar during an intriguing period of history." - Library Journal

"Bayard... blends luminaries of history, lost treasure, intrigue and a double-twist conclusion into a highly readable concoction." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

Louis Bayard Author Biography

Photo: D.A. Peterson

With his most recent novels, The School of Night, The Black Tower, The Pale Blue Eye, and Mr. Timothy, Louis Bayard, in the words of the Washington Post, has ascended to "the upper reaches of the historical-thriller league." A New York Times Notable author, he has been nominated for both the Edgar and Dagger awards and has been named one of People magazine's top authors of the year.

Bayard is also a nationally recognized essayist and critic whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post. His other novels include Fool's Errand and Endangered Species. He is a contributor to the anthologies The Worst Noël and Maybe Baby (HarperCollins) as well as 101 Damnations (St. Martin's). He also teaches creative writing at ...

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