The School of Night

The School of Night - Louis Bayard Synopsis

“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, once a member of the mysterious School of Night, a group whose members included the toast of Elizabethan society, has shut himself off from the world. Working day and night, he devotes himself secretly to his experiments.

As both searches deepen, the two men realise that there are forces at work against them. Harriot’s work is threatened by discovery and Henry’s search becomes a deadly one, when someone close to him dies in mysterious circumstances. The School of Night is the story of a quest that spans centuries, of alliances forged in unexpected circumstances and of men who will stop at nothing to get what they want.”

I have always been a fan of Louis Bayard beautifully written historical thrillers but I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one.

The dual narrative worked well, weaving the past and present into a deftly plotted story, except I MUCH preferred the Elizabethan sections to the modern day treasure hunt. The Elizabethan characters Thomas and Margaret are compelling and empathetically engaging. I strongly felt their modern day counterparts and their story was not drawn as well. In fact thinking about it, it is the modern day thread that caused me not to enjoy it as much as I was expecting, I found I was racing through Henry and Clarissa’s story to get back to the characters I really cared about, Thomas and Margaret

I can understand other reviewers saying the modern sections reads like a better written version of The Da Vinci Code and unfortunately I agree with them. Louis Bayard’s previous works include The Pale Blue Eye (which follows a young Edgar Allen Poe solving a very dark and terrible mystery and Mr. Timothy, a literary masterpiece continuing the story of Dickens' Tiny Tim. Maybe if I had not read his previous works I would not have such high expectations but I found The School of Night rather light, not up to the author’s previous standard.