The School of Night

A Novel

Louis Bayard

Henry Holt and Co.

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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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Three or fourtimes a week, it comes.

Not a dream: closer to a vision, apart from her but obscurely meant for her, too.

And each time the vision converges on a man. Working late into the evening. Streaks of sweat across his brow and neck. His head bowed—in prayer, she thinks, except she has never heard a prayer quite like this.

"Ex nihilo . . ."

Lapis stones clatter in a copper pan.

". . . nihil . . ."

Beneath the copper, a tallow flame crackles into life.

". . . fit."

A pewter mist billows up, then resolves into a powder.

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Praise for The School of Night

"Fascinating…A few codes and cryptograms are all you need to get caught up in an enigmatic mystery like The School of Night." –The New York Times Book Review

“Exhilarating…Bayard adds twist after satisfying twist... At its heart, The School of Night illuminates a glimpse into legend, assuring readers that this ancient classroom offered a curriculum heavy on secrets.”—The Washington Post

"Rich and rewarding...Mr. Bayard writes seamless prose and conjures the past with credibility."—The Wall Street Journal

"[A] superb intellectual thriller...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 (starred)

"[A] compelling literary thriller" – Library Journal (starred)

"An entertaining intelligent thriller…fast-paced [with] several superb twists." –The Mystery Gazette

"[D]eftly rendered. . . . Bayard (The Black Tower, 2008, etc.) blends luminaries of history, lost treasure, intrigue and a double-twist conclusion into a highly readable concoction." – Kirkus Review

"Bayard’s latest. . . interweaves the antic comedy of the modern-day caper with the tragic and affecting love story of the past." – Booklist

“Bayard has crafted a deft, immensely engaging, and in the end, surprisingly moving novel” – James Williams,

In the Press

THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT by Louis Bayard | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT . Bayard's novel isn't the first to combine historical characters and long-secret shenanigans, but instead of suggesting Jesus married Mary Magdalene, it puts Shakespeare into a gay love affair.
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Louis Bayard

Louis Bayard is the author of The Black Tower, the national bestseller The Pale Blue Eye, and Mr. Timothy, a New York Times Notable Book. A former staff writer for, Bayard has written articles and reviews for The New York Times, The Washington Post,, and Preservation, among other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Louis Bayard

Augusten Burroughs

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Available Formats and Book Details

The School of Night
A Novel
Louis Bayard

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
March 2011
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429965552
ISBN10: 142996555X
352 pages

Unabridged Compact Disc

Unabridged  Compact Disc
Macmillan Audio
July 2014
Unabridged Compact Disc
ISBN: 9781427259240
ISBN10: 1427259240
Audio Run Time: 11:30

Unabridged Digital Audio

Unabridged  Digital Audio
Macmillan Audio
March 2011
Unabridged Digital Audio
ISBN: 9781427212078
ISBN10: 1427212074
Audio Run Time: 12:00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2012
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250002303
ISBN10: 1250002303
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages

From The Publisher

Henry Holt and Co.

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