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An intellectual property lawyer is at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began with a fire in an antiquarian bookstore. A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured An intellectual property lawyer is at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began with a fire in an antiquarian bookstore. A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured to death . . . A lost manuscript and its secrets buried for centuries . . . An encrypted map that leads to incalculable wealth . . . The Washington Post called Michael Gruber's previous work "a miracle of intelligent fiction and among the essential novels of recent years." Now comes his most intellectually provocative and compulsively readable novel yet. Tap-tapping the keys and out come the words on this little screen, and who will read them I hardly know. I could be dead by the time anyone actually gets to read them, as dead as, say, Tolstoy. Or Shakespeare. Does it matter, when you read, if the person who wrote still lives? These are the words of Jake Mishkin, whose seemingly innocent job as an intellectual property lawyer has put him at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began when a fire in an antiquarian bookstore revealed the hiding place of letters containing a shocking secret, concealed for four hundred years. In a frantic race from New York to England and Switzerland, Jake finds himself matching wits with a shadowy figure who seems to anticipate his every move. What at first seems like a thrilling puzzle waiting to be deciphered soon turns into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, where no one—not family, not friends, not lovers—is to be trusted. Moving between twenty-first-century America and seventeenth-century England, The Book of Air and Shadows is a modern thriller that brilliantly re-creates William Shakespeare's life at the turn of the seventeenth century and combines an ingenious and intricately layered plot with a devastating portrait of a contemporary man on the brink of self-discovery . . . or self-destruction.


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An intellectual property lawyer is at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began with a fire in an antiquarian bookstore. A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured An intellectual property lawyer is at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began with a fire in an antiquarian bookstore. A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured to death . . . A lost manuscript and its secrets buried for centuries . . . An encrypted map that leads to incalculable wealth . . . The Washington Post called Michael Gruber's previous work "a miracle of intelligent fiction and among the essential novels of recent years." Now comes his most intellectually provocative and compulsively readable novel yet. Tap-tapping the keys and out come the words on this little screen, and who will read them I hardly know. I could be dead by the time anyone actually gets to read them, as dead as, say, Tolstoy. Or Shakespeare. Does it matter, when you read, if the person who wrote still lives? These are the words of Jake Mishkin, whose seemingly innocent job as an intellectual property lawyer has put him at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began when a fire in an antiquarian bookstore revealed the hiding place of letters containing a shocking secret, concealed for four hundred years. In a frantic race from New York to England and Switzerland, Jake finds himself matching wits with a shadowy figure who seems to anticipate his every move. What at first seems like a thrilling puzzle waiting to be deciphered soon turns into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, where no one—not family, not friends, not lovers—is to be trusted. Moving between twenty-first-century America and seventeenth-century England, The Book of Air and Shadows is a modern thriller that brilliantly re-creates William Shakespeare's life at the turn of the seventeenth century and combines an ingenious and intricately layered plot with a devastating portrait of a contemporary man on the brink of self-discovery . . . or self-destruction.

30 review for The Book of Air and Shadows

  1. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    This COULD have been an amazing book. If only the author had just stuck to his very interesting plot, instead of continually sharing pointless details and side stories about the characters. The main story was fascinating: Letters leading to a secret cipher that when cracked would lead to a hidden, and previously unread Shakespeare play. But for some reason the author could not seem to stay with this story. He seemed more interested in telling the story of the sexual pursuits of his various unlik This COULD have been an amazing book. If only the author had just stuck to his very interesting plot, instead of continually sharing pointless details and side stories about the characters. The main story was fascinating: Letters leading to a secret cipher that when cracked would lead to a hidden, and previously unread Shakespeare play. But for some reason the author could not seem to stay with this story. He seemed more interested in telling the story of the sexual pursuits of his various unlikeable characters. The fact that the story was written from three different points-of-view was also confusing and distracting. If only someone could edit this book, take out the garbage, and put it back out there with the gem of the story that is hidden inside, everyone would be reading it right now!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    I usually try to give each book the first one hundred pages before deciding to quit. If it hasn't hooked me by then, it's doubtful it'll hook me any time soon. I gave this book the first forty pages and gave up. It's almost mind-numbingly boring. Written in first-person, so we know the narrator makes it through whatever it is that's coming up, there is no hook early on to make me want to keep reading. The narrator rambles on about things not connected to the main lost-manuscript-of-Shakespeare p I usually try to give each book the first one hundred pages before deciding to quit. If it hasn't hooked me by then, it's doubtful it'll hook me any time soon. I gave this book the first forty pages and gave up. It's almost mind-numbingly boring. Written in first-person, so we know the narrator makes it through whatever it is that's coming up, there is no hook early on to make me want to keep reading. The narrator rambles on about things not connected to the main lost-manuscript-of-Shakespeare plot that's supposed to be the story, taking me away from that story and losing me in the process. For a better and more interesting novel about a lost manuscript of Shakespeare, see Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred with Their Bones.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    a very enjoyable, but deeply flawed book... flawed, because the gratuitous and largely pointless sexual content of this book almost causes it to founder...as a matter of fact, if you look at the majority of the reviews here and on amazon, many a reader could not get past it... enjoyable, because the erudition and imagination that went into its creation are absolutely superlative... the literary treasure hunt of the main characters and the prize itself are both filled with intellectual verisimilitud a very enjoyable, but deeply flawed book... flawed, because the gratuitous and largely pointless sexual content of this book almost causes it to founder...as a matter of fact, if you look at the majority of the reviews here and on amazon, many a reader could not get past it... enjoyable, because the erudition and imagination that went into its creation are absolutely superlative... the literary treasure hunt of the main characters and the prize itself are both filled with intellectual verisimilitude and brain twisting fun... and the overall theme of the book is very satisfying as well... as the book wends its way toward its conclusion you are always asking yourself "is the prize real or fake"...gruber constantly keeps you off balance and never really lets go with the truth until practically the very last moment... what this question translated into thematically is: what is the nature of the 'dream' you pursue in life? is it real or is it fake?... are you really pursuing your life's fulfillment?... or are you pursuing an obsession that can only end in self-destruction?... the two characters in the book are contrasted to explore these issues to good effect... gruber feebly tried to make the sexual content a part of the plot toward the end, but the lewdness and ribaldry of the depth and detail he provides was never really necessary... what ends up on the pages as a result is arguably a more intellectually challenging romance novel... in my opinion the work suffers mightily as a result...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Contrary to what you may have heard, the life of a book reviewer is not unending adventure. It's lots of speed-reading and sitting around in your bathrobe, trying to finish the next review while scouring the cupboard for more chocolate chips and wondering if that mole on your shoulder is looking weirder. Oh sure, "There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away," but give me a frigate break; sometimes you wouldn't mind a few thrills. Which may be why I'm such a sucker for this relatively n Contrary to what you may have heard, the life of a book reviewer is not unending adventure. It's lots of speed-reading and sitting around in your bathrobe, trying to finish the next review while scouring the cupboard for more chocolate chips and wondering if that mole on your shoulder is looking weirder. Oh sure, "There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away," but give me a frigate break; sometimes you wouldn't mind a few thrills. Which may be why I'm such a sucker for this relatively new genre of books that are literally literary thrillers -- stories in which some pudgy book guy is propelled into a vortex of romance, crime and intrigue. If you love books -- their physical presence, the craft of making them, the art of collecting them -- then you already may well have enjoyed Ross King's Ex Libris, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind and a dozen others. Now make room on the shelf for a new guilty pleasure from Michael Gruber called The Book of Air and Shadows. It's smart enough to let you think you're still superior to that cousin who raves about The Da Vinci Code, but it's packed with enough excitement to keep your inner bibliophile as happy as a folio in vellum. Gruber's story revolves around the search for the most sought-after document in the world: a new play by William Shakespeare. In his own handwriting. To get an idea of how precious such a treasure would be, consider that for 400 years the entire Shakespeare industry has managed to find only six tiny samples of the playwright's handwriting: signatures (all misspelled) on a few legal documents. What would a Shakespeare scholar do to find an entire play in the Bard's hand? Whom would a criminal mastermind kill to steal it? Enter The Book of Air and Shadows, stage right. The story begins with a fire at a rare bookshop on Madison Avenue. The next day, while trying to salvage some of the merchandise, Carolyn Rolly (gorgeous, mysterious) and Albert Crosetti (lives with mom) discover some pages hidden in the binding of an old book. After struggling for hours with the difficult handwriting and archaic spelling, Crosetti determines that he's reading a letter written by a 17th-century soldier on his deathbed. Excerpts of this letter appear throughout the novel in alternating chapters, and it's not easy going: "Now my father seeyng this taxed us sayyng what shal you not only be idle thyselfe but also tayke my clerke into idlenesse with thee?" You'll be tempted to skip these rough patches, but don't. First of all, they get easier as you get used to them, and second, they're a chance to experience the mingled tedium and thrill of discovery. The letter describes a spectacularly exciting life, which culminated in an assignment to spy on a popular playwright and suspected Roman Catholic, Shakespeare. Meanwhile, another thread of the novel takes up the story of Jake Mishkin, an intellectual-property lawyer who's holed up in a cabin in the Adirondacks. While waiting for some Russian gangsters who will surely kill him, he's typing out the story of how he got in this mess. "Although there is a kind of lawyer who can reasonably expect a certain level of physical danger as part of the employment picture," he writes in his witty, rambling narrative, "I am not that kind of lawyer." Once an Olympic weightlifter, he's long since settled down to shuffling paper, cheating on his wife and leading a generally dull and morally vacuous life. But several months earlier, a frightened English professor came to his office. He wanted advice about how to secure the rights to a 17th-century letter that may point to the location of an unknown manuscript by Shakespeare. Jake promised to advise him and took possession of the letter, but soon after that meeting, the professor was found tortured to death, and Jake found his exquisitely ordered and pampered existence thrown into deadly disarray. What follows is a wild story of double-crossings, forgeries, kidnappings and murders that's engrossing even when it's ridiculous. (At one point, the code secret is tattooed on a beautiful woman's thigh -- so handy.) We've got Russian mobsters, Jewish gangsters, Nazi thieves, international models and currency traders, oh my. And all of this madcap adventure in the present is mirrored in a story we gradually decipher from that 17th-century letter, describing a nefarious plot by radical Puritans to entrap "the secret papist Shaxpure." While twisting the plot into great knots of complexity, Gruber mixes in fascinating details about rare manuscripts, intellectual property, and ancient and modern cryptography. Sadly, the women in this novel don't come off much better than they do in the average James Bond movie, but Jake is a truly engaging narrator, who's forced by this crisis to face up to a lifetime of moral weakness. And young Crosetti, who works in the rare bookstore only to put himself through film school, constantly reminds us -- even in the most dire circumstances -- that movies determine "our sense of how to behave. . . . Movies shape everyone's reality." That's a pop echo of Harold Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), which argued that the Bard's plays literally created modern consciousness, assembling a vast index of human personalities and experiences in which we continue to find ourselves. Gruber never reaches for Bloom's gravitas (thank God), but, as Bottom would say, it's "a very good piece of work, I assure you." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I really wanted to give this one a chance, but it was so bogged down in meaningless details that very little happened within the first 100 pages. The style of writing is very meandering, so much that it detracts from the plot. Which is a shame, because the premise of the book sounded very interesting, but in the end it was just too dull for me to be able to get through. For me, it spent way too much time dwelling on the family of the characters rather than establishing a plot.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    Just dragged myself through the first chapter and i'm already questioning whether i should continue reading. Its just not fascinating me. In addition i hate the writing style. For someone like me who loves proper punctuating, this guy uses a million commas, in all the right places, but still its driving me nuts. OK! and thats the end of that. I just finished the third chapter and almost cried at the idea of venturing on to the fourth. The main narrator just rambles on page after page, comma after Just dragged myself through the first chapter and i'm already questioning whether i should continue reading. Its just not fascinating me. In addition i hate the writing style. For someone like me who loves proper punctuating, this guy uses a million commas, in all the right places, but still its driving me nuts. OK! and thats the end of that. I just finished the third chapter and almost cried at the idea of venturing on to the fourth. The main narrator just rambles on page after page, comma after comma, just like this, about his mother, his father, his almost best friend, his kids, his inability to stay faithful to his wife, or be a loving father, blah blah blah. Some of the things he says might actually be humorous, if he'd just get to the point, or if i wasn't looking to read a fantastic suspense filled thriller. Ultimately, i just want the man to shut up. when he does actually talk about the plot of the book, the story is almost intriguing. if i have to say something positive about this book it is that Michael Gruber, is good at setting up the intrigue but lacks the ability to keep me so. After 4 months of waiting for my library to get the paperback edition (i refused to carry this around in hardcover)i am not even pissed about quiting 65 pages into it, i just want it to go away.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    What a fascinating story Gruber has constructed. There is a manuscript from the 1600's used as padding in the covers of an old map portfolio found by the geeky book shop young man; the story of the bookshop man; the story of a lawyer who received the manuscript from a client and the client then was murdered for it; and multiple other storylines. The gist is there might be an unpublished Shakespeare play buried in England, written in his own hand. Since none of Shakespeare’s plays were even signe What a fascinating story Gruber has constructed. There is a manuscript from the 1600's used as padding in the covers of an old map portfolio found by the geeky book shop young man; the story of the bookshop man; the story of a lawyer who received the manuscript from a client and the client then was murdered for it; and multiple other storylines. The gist is there might be an unpublished Shakespeare play buried in England, written in his own hand. Since none of Shakespeare’s plays were even signed (well, maybe one) this would be a huge find and would put to bed the question of Shakespeare being the author of note we think he is (and some scholar's beg to differ). This story is woven together well and although I don't know what happens yet since I'm only half way through, I'd say it's a great read and recommend it highly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I loved this book because it's written in several different voices; in fact I almost quit reading it because the first narrator's voice was super casual and seemed like a mindless pop fiction. but don't let it fool you. The style picked up and entertained me as soon as the other narrator emerged. It contains movie references -- which was fun for cultural references, and I loved deciperhing the allulsions. The book has been compared to DaVinci Code, but only because it's a suspense thriller, cros I loved this book because it's written in several different voices; in fact I almost quit reading it because the first narrator's voice was super casual and seemed like a mindless pop fiction. but don't let it fool you. The style picked up and entertained me as soon as the other narrator emerged. It contains movie references -- which was fun for cultural references, and I loved deciperhing the allulsions. The book has been compared to DaVinci Code, but only because it's a suspense thriller, cross continental treasure hunt; sorry, no religious controversy. The fact that the characters are hunting for a Shakespearean play made it all the more fun.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

    This book seemingly has it all- Russian/Jewish mobsters, Shakespeare scholars, lying women, Jesuit priest/thug, intelligent and sassy middle aged women (wait, can anyone over the age of 25 be considered sassy?), ciphers, several conspiracty theories some twists and turns and a big finish. What it doesn't have is that undefinable quality that distinguishes it from all the other dime a dozen conspiracy books. The writing is adequate though not compelling which is why I can't rank it more than two This book seemingly has it all- Russian/Jewish mobsters, Shakespeare scholars, lying women, Jesuit priest/thug, intelligent and sassy middle aged women (wait, can anyone over the age of 25 be considered sassy?), ciphers, several conspiracty theories some twists and turns and a big finish. What it doesn't have is that undefinable quality that distinguishes it from all the other dime a dozen conspiracy books. The writing is adequate though not compelling which is why I can't rank it more than two stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    I gave up. Endless sidetracking, heaps of information, no clear storyline and most of all very boring. This book made me wonder if it was edited at all. Also, i did not really like the main character that starts out telling the story. A very annoying, self-absorbed and egocentric lawyer. In the end i remembered my resolution: life's too short to read bad books. Such a pity. I really do love books about mysterious books. I gave up. Endless sidetracking, heaps of information, no clear storyline and most of all very boring. This book made me wonder if it was edited at all. Also, i did not really like the main character that starts out telling the story. A very annoying, self-absorbed and egocentric lawyer. In the end i remembered my resolution: life's too short to read bad books. Such a pity. I really do love books about mysterious books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Griffin Betz

    Shakespeare, Russian gangsters, cyphers, antique books, sex and the English Civil War - what's not to like? Well, nothing really. Of course there wasn't much that I found that I actually liked either. Actually that's a bit unfair to The Book of Air and Shadows. It's not as if I was bored by the book, it just sat on my bedside table for two months, half finished and ignored in favor of other books. I always intended to finish it. I was never so disgusted that I put it down with the intention of n Shakespeare, Russian gangsters, cyphers, antique books, sex and the English Civil War - what's not to like? Well, nothing really. Of course there wasn't much that I found that I actually liked either. Actually that's a bit unfair to The Book of Air and Shadows. It's not as if I was bored by the book, it just sat on my bedside table for two months, half finished and ignored in favor of other books. I always intended to finish it. I was never so disgusted that I put it down with the intention of never picking it up again. It just languished there while other books seemed to demand my attention. I finally realized that after two months I probably wasn't going to finish it. The premise was interesting and though the plot (at least as much of it as I read) was unremarkable, it was dressed up in interesting 'clothes.' The way that Michael Gruber switches between three very different voices and points of view is actually rather engaging. It regulates the pace of the novel and provides some variety. Bracegirdle's letters, central to the plot of the novel, are presented as separate chapters throughout the novel and provide a great side story that compliments the main plot. Mr. Gruber's writing never thrills but also never grates or feels clumsy or awkward. All in all, The Book of Air and Shadows was a good light read. My review actually reminds me that I did enjoy the book while reading it and if I were looking forward to some time at the beach, I wouldn't hesitate to bring the book along. I always feel guilty reviewing a book I didn't finish but I think that the book's inability to 'hook' me is both the books only real failing and the most valuable review I could give.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sheepdog

    I had trouble deciding which of my shelves this belonged on! So many things are going on at once. It is part "treasure hunt"... think "Da Vinci Code", without the creepy bits. It is part "history"... lots about the time of Shakespeare, and the various power stuggles of the era. I'm afraid that I now take notes as I read... And that really would have helped here. There were at least two major story lines, two "teams" chasing "the treasure". (This review won't give away spoilers. And then there are at I had trouble deciding which of my shelves this belonged on! So many things are going on at once. It is part "treasure hunt"... think "Da Vinci Code", without the creepy bits. It is part "history"... lots about the time of Shakespeare, and the various power stuggles of the era. I'm afraid that I now take notes as I read... And that really would have helped here. There were at least two major story lines, two "teams" chasing "the treasure". (This review won't give away spoilers. And then there are at least two "final answers" hinted at as you make your way through the book. Many wonderfully imagined and drawn characters. It is a very "rich" meal... I took much longer to get through it, than I normally would have taken to read this many pages... but it wasn't a struggle, wasn't "hard work". I hope it will give you as much pleasure as it did me. Will capture your interest and exercise your imagination.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Blaire

    Were it not for a couple of flaws, I might have given this book 5 stars. I liked the premise and the way the plot was developed; there were a couple of surprises along the way, which is always nice. One enjoyable aspect of the book was the occasional acute observation on the part of the author. These were usually apropos of nothing; just an unexpected bonus that I found striking and something that makes the book more than a standard thriller. My principal complaints have to do with the climax of Were it not for a couple of flaws, I might have given this book 5 stars. I liked the premise and the way the plot was developed; there were a couple of surprises along the way, which is always nice. One enjoyable aspect of the book was the occasional acute observation on the part of the author. These were usually apropos of nothing; just an unexpected bonus that I found striking and something that makes the book more than a standard thriller. My principal complaints have to do with the climax of the plot, which I found awkward. There were more complications than were absolutely necessary - particularly a surfeit of characters. Also, themes popped up at the end that hadn't really been part of the texture of earlier parts of the book, i.e. speculations about tragedy vs. comedy etc. Despite the criticisms, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to friends.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    This one sat around staring at me for quite some weeks, but its girth and the absolutely bipolar love hate reviews have been holding me back. Alas, I finally tackled it and I'm glad I did, it was a lot of fun and moved along very nicely for a book its size. I neither loved nor hated it, although for a significant while at first it was closer to love. I'm always looking for the next Shadow of The Wind, adore books about books and all things to do with Shakespeare. Gruber is no Carlos Ruiz Zafon, This one sat around staring at me for quite some weeks, but its girth and the absolutely bipolar love hate reviews have been holding me back. Alas, I finally tackled it and I'm glad I did, it was a lot of fun and moved along very nicely for a book its size. I neither loved nor hated it, although for a significant while at first it was closer to love. I'm always looking for the next Shadow of The Wind, adore books about books and all things to do with Shakespeare. Gruber is no Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but he is a very adept writer, the problem with the book that he crammed SO much into it, it sort of collapsed somewhat under its own weight and so, after most auspicious beginning, it turned too thriller, too bestsellery, too action, almost farcical at times. Maybe if the story was smaller, more self contained, maybe if it was just Crozetti's story (instead of sticking us with a fairly deplorable morally ambiguous at best narrator), maybe sans the plodding old English passages, it would have been better. As it was though it worked, quite well actually, it was a very entertaining read. and fan of literary thrillers or books about books (there must be a word for this, bibliosomething...) would enjoy this one. Recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Seizure Romero

    My biggest problem with this book is the narrator's voice. Maybe I should say voices, because there are two. The first is in first person and as he tells his story he becomes more and more irritating due to his almost complete self-absorption, and I feel that the focus on his incessant and often pointless yammering detracts from the story itself. The second is a third person narrator. Having a first person narrator and a third person narrator in the same story irritates the crap out of me. Pick My biggest problem with this book is the narrator's voice. Maybe I should say voices, because there are two. The first is in first person and as he tells his story he becomes more and more irritating due to his almost complete self-absorption, and I feel that the focus on his incessant and often pointless yammering detracts from the story itself. The second is a third person narrator. Having a first person narrator and a third person narrator in the same story irritates the crap out of me. Pick one and go with it. It's a peeve. Sue me. However, even writers who irritate me can have moments that transcend and cause me to forgive their other crimes. In this book the moment arrives on page 379: "She kissed him briefly and slid out of the bed and he thought there can't be many things more lovely than watching a woman you've just made love to walk across the room, that way her back and her ass look in the dawn's early light...." Some truths are universal.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Benavidez

    Picked up this book because it was a fictional mystery surrounding one of my all-time favorite writers, William Shakespeare. Got halfway through this book. I ended up so bored with it that I just decided to not finish, which isn't something I do easily. I hate not finishing a book, but this one is just...poorly written. The characters are nothing great, most are not even believable and have a very base personality, the setting is rather dull and stupid, and overall the story is rather predictable Picked up this book because it was a fictional mystery surrounding one of my all-time favorite writers, William Shakespeare. Got halfway through this book. I ended up so bored with it that I just decided to not finish, which isn't something I do easily. I hate not finishing a book, but this one is just...poorly written. The characters are nothing great, most are not even believable and have a very base personality, the setting is rather dull and stupid, and overall the story is rather predictable. It was disjointed in a bad way and hard to follow at times as a result. Just not a very good book at all.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I'm kind of split on this book; with three different storylines, that's not a difficult place to be. Crosetti is by far the most enjoyable, but by the end it was annoying how he constantly described film cliches in the thriller genre, only to have the events play out exactly as he said. He explains his idea that life imitates film, not the other way around, and I suppose this is the author's way of illustrating that point, but--come ON. I don't read these kinds of books because I can guess the e I'm kind of split on this book; with three different storylines, that's not a difficult place to be. Crosetti is by far the most enjoyable, but by the end it was annoying how he constantly described film cliches in the thriller genre, only to have the events play out exactly as he said. He explains his idea that life imitates film, not the other way around, and I suppose this is the author's way of illustrating that point, but--come ON. I don't read these kinds of books because I can guess the ending and what side all the players are on. Still, despite his formulaic movie obsession, the interactions of Crosetti, his family, Carolyn, and Klim are quite entertaining. Crosetti's mother is probably my favorite character in the entire 460+ pages. Richard Bracegirdle's chapters are difficult, because his narration is told completely in 17th century letters written in the Jacobean style of inconsistent spelling variations. It turned what could have been the most interesting story into sentences that were almost painful to slog through. I get historical realism, but please don't make it hard on your readers. (They got faster as the book went on; by the last letter, I was almost used to it.) Jake--I hated him. Just absolutely despised him. A former weighterlifter, now intellectual property lawyer with a sex addiction, a Nazi mother, a Jewish gangster father, a slutty sister, a thug-turned-priest brother, a painfully good estranged wife, a completely abnormal son and a regular teen daughter, he's got WAY too much going on in his life--and I didn't care about any of it. His sexual exploits made too many appearances--sorry, I'm just not interested in the various noises women make--and his long paragraphs fighting with his guilt were irritating. His story was told in the first person, leading me to think that *this* is the one the audience is supposed to identify with the most, to listen to the most, to care about the most. *This* guy is more the main character of the book than anyone else. Thbbbbbbbbbbt. Why did I pick this book up? Because it was a book about a lost Shakespeare manuscript and ciphered letters hiding its location. I like tales with a literary/historical bent, and I love a good mystery. This had little history, and less mystery. What should have been surprises were too long coming, or just fulfilling onscreen cliches. For the sake of Crosetti and his mother, I would love to give this book 2.5 stars. However, GoodReads won't let me have a half star, so I'm rounding down--I can't convince myself to round up.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jonah Gibson

    This is a fabulous book - wildly inventive, compelling, deeply personal, and smart as hell. For starters you will learn more than you thought you wanted to know about bookbinding, Shakespearean scholarship, and secret ciphers. The education itself is worth more than the price of entry. Gruber has done a mind-numbing amount of research to make these topics interesting and accessible to his readers. Reading this won't be easy going. You are going to have to think, but you will be rewarded in the e This is a fabulous book - wildly inventive, compelling, deeply personal, and smart as hell. For starters you will learn more than you thought you wanted to know about bookbinding, Shakespearean scholarship, and secret ciphers. The education itself is worth more than the price of entry. Gruber has done a mind-numbing amount of research to make these topics interesting and accessible to his readers. Reading this won't be easy going. You are going to have to think, but you will be rewarded in the end. The story itself is full of twists and surprises, although by the time you get to the end you will have already figured most of it out. This was not a problem for me, because by the time I got to the end I was fully engaged with the characters, and anxious for their individual redemption. Other reviewers have complained about the seeming overload of personal, confessional detail of the characters' lives, especially the protagonist and narrator, Jake Mishkin, because they can for the most part be eliminated without injury to the plot. This may be true, and if you are one of those readers who likes to bypass the superfluous to get to the exciting conclusion and on to the next book, then this story is not for you. There is a lot of extraneous detail in here, and the narrator seems to meander aimlessly backwards to fill in personal histories when you already know the import. To me this was extremely enriching and satisfying. Gruber could have told his story in half the time with half the words, but it would not have been, for me at least who loves a sinner with all my heart, nearly so engaging. The seemingly disjointed enumeration of unrelated anecdotes by the first person narrator, Mishkin, also cements his place in the story as an Intellectual Property lawyer rather than a writer. The narrator gives us details in the fashion of a cross examining attorney rather than as a polished writer. That Gruber is able to maintain this artifice throughout is something of a marvel to me. I have also read Tropic of Night, which is completely different in tone and character, and that difference made me realize just how good a writer Gruber is. I can't recommend this book enough. It is far and away the best thing I have read this year. If you like a smart book, occasionally challenging, with a lovely balance between plot and characterization and a little bit of arcane knowledge sprinkled in so you've got something to take away besides the satisfaction of a good read, then you need to read The Book of Air and Shadows. You'll be glad you did.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    The Book of Air and Shadows falls into that curious genre known as the "literary thriller" - curious because most thrillers mostly contain poor to middling writing (read: Dan Brown) and focus almost solely on plot, and much less on character development or other things that you find in books that carry the "literature" label. Since I am a fan of more literary works (yes, I am pretentious that way) but still enjoy a good plot every now and then, books like this one appeal to me a lot and I thoroug The Book of Air and Shadows falls into that curious genre known as the "literary thriller" - curious because most thrillers mostly contain poor to middling writing (read: Dan Brown) and focus almost solely on plot, and much less on character development or other things that you find in books that carry the "literature" label. Since I am a fan of more literary works (yes, I am pretentious that way) but still enjoy a good plot every now and then, books like this one appeal to me a lot and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The main characters are all very flawed and very compelling, the plot is fun and self-referencing in an amusing sort of way, and there's even a bit of interesting cryptography involved, which appeals to my geek sensibilities. Fans of more traditional genre thrillers will probably find the going a bit slow compared to what they are used to. The ending of the book was the only thing that was a little bit disappointing - most of it was fairly guessable even for someone like me who almost never figures out what is going on in books like this, and the climactic scene was a bit overdone, even if it was sort of that way on purpose because the author was having some fun with the genre.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A rather thrilling story about the discovery of a letter that proves not only Shakespeare's existence but also the existence of another, previously unknown, play. The best part of the book is how the author told the story from alternating viewpoints - one as events are happening and one from the first-person perspective of one of the characters. There is ALOT of back story about who these two main characters are as a way to explain why they do what they do, although I don't know that it is so co A rather thrilling story about the discovery of a letter that proves not only Shakespeare's existence but also the existence of another, previously unknown, play. The best part of the book is how the author told the story from alternating viewpoints - one as events are happening and one from the first-person perspective of one of the characters. There is ALOT of back story about who these two main characters are as a way to explain why they do what they do, although I don't know that it is so compelling to warrant all the extra pages. Without it, I guess you have just another Dan Brown thriller. Still, it was a good story, if a little long, and I learned some things about Shakespeare, ciphers, bookbinding, etc. that I didn't know before. My only complaint, besides the length, is the somewhat confusing plotline of the letter and play being an elaborate scam, but I don't want to give too much away. Let's just say it happens late in the story and it wasn't convincing to me, so I was surprised it was convincing to the characters.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Interesting concept for a book, but not the storyline was not interesting enough to keep me glued to it. I think I would have lost interest and the will to finish it, if it weren't our book club selection for the month of April...and I didn't have 8 hours of travel via plane to kill. The letters that are interspersed throughout the book were difficult to read, and so I started by-passing those completely very early on. It did not seem to impact my understanding of what was taking place. I did th Interesting concept for a book, but not the storyline was not interesting enough to keep me glued to it. I think I would have lost interest and the will to finish it, if it weren't our book club selection for the month of April...and I didn't have 8 hours of travel via plane to kill. The letters that are interspersed throughout the book were difficult to read, and so I started by-passing those completely very early on. It did not seem to impact my understanding of what was taking place. I did think the facts about Shakespeare were interesting. Overall, I would not pass this book along or recommend it to others. Book re-sell shop, here I come!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zulfiya

    This book is getting a lot of negative reviews, and I can see why. If you are looking for a thriller ( and this is how it was advertised - literary thriller) then you should probably look elsewhere. This is not a typical brain candy with the easy bad guy, plus your average good guy who saves the world or a country or a city or a family - no, this is definitely not that kind of the book. If you are looking for a straightforward plot that has a roller coaster speed, yet again, do not attempt this This book is getting a lot of negative reviews, and I can see why. If you are looking for a thriller ( and this is how it was advertised - literary thriller) then you should probably look elsewhere. This is not a typical brain candy with the easy bad guy, plus your average good guy who saves the world or a country or a city or a family - no, this is definitely not that kind of the book. If you are looking for a straightforward plot that has a roller coaster speed, yet again, do not attempt this book. This book offers something different. It offers deeply flawed characters who are very hard to love, but it is even harder to hate them. It offers insights into the variety of broken family dynamics without any hope of normalcy. It also offers multiple points of view, past and present narratives, and some insight into the literary enigma of William Shakespeare for those who are not familiar with anti-Shakespearean theories, the world of spies, and mobsters, and money. Of course, the main feminine character is the typical damsel in distress who is in fact a true femme fatal; as a result, what people call gratuitous sex scenes are fully relevant, in my opinion. I did enjoy the rural slightly country twist of her background. The only way of summarizing this part of her story is the phrase, " Well, that was something" I truly enjoyed it. I know it was not perfect in its execution , but I do like some uppety motives in the book and why and how it can infuriate some readers. I find this fact extremely enjoyable, especially the infuriating part ...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    The book of air and shadows, could not have a better title because, really, the feeling that I had after reading it is of inconsistency, almost 600 pages where more than half is air and the rest is a constant race chasing shadows. I had a hard time not quitting it because I had 200 pages read and nothing interesting had happened yet. The letters, I started reading them but they were so boring that I ended up skipping them. It has good details but the characters, especially Jake, ramble too much w The book of air and shadows, could not have a better title because, really, the feeling that I had after reading it is of inconsistency, almost 600 pages where more than half is air and the rest is a constant race chasing shadows. I had a hard time not quitting it because I had 200 pages read and nothing interesting had happened yet. The letters, I started reading them but they were so boring that I ended up skipping them. It has good details but the characters, especially Jake, ramble too much without contributing anything to the plot. My actual rating is 1.5 stars, especially for characters like Mary Peg and Klim. =========================== El libro del aire y las sombras, no podía tener un título mejor porque, realmente, la sensación que me quedó al leerlo es de su inconsistencia, más de 500 páginas donde la más de la mitad es aire y el resto es una carrera constante persiguiendo sombras. Me costó bastante no abandonar su lectura porque llevaba 200 páginas leídas y todavía no había pasado nada interesante, las cartas, empecé leyéndolas pero eran tan aburridas que terminé por saltármelas. Tiene detalles buenos pero los personajes, especialmente Jake, divagan demasiado sin aportar nada a la trama. Mi puntuación real es de 1,5 estrellas, sobre todo por personajes como Mary Peg y Klim.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gerald

    Fascinating, well-researched, masterfully crafted Shakespeare pseudo-history. Silly, overly complicated, implausible, downright infuriating potboiler whodunnit plot - but there's a method to this madness. Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows bears a lot of similarities to Dan Brown's literate mysteries. It's a rare-book scandal unraveled by following a skein of coded messages. In this case, the messages are 17th-century cryptography. The author seems to have a firm grasp on this arcane stuff, but Fascinating, well-researched, masterfully crafted Shakespeare pseudo-history. Silly, overly complicated, implausible, downright infuriating potboiler whodunnit plot - but there's a method to this madness. Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows bears a lot of similarities to Dan Brown's literate mysteries. It's a rare-book scandal unraveled by following a skein of coded messages. In this case, the messages are 17th-century cryptography. The author seems to have a firm grasp on this arcane stuff, but I can't tell. He explains the techniques in detail, but I can't follow them. Then, I was one of those lazy students who skipped calculus because I had heard that it was hard. My loss, I'm sure. The Shakespeare invented history is amazing and jaw-dropping. If you haven't read Bill Bryson's Shakespeare you might bring that along. Gruber even invents old documents written in Elizabethan argot. Like the cryptography material, these seem authentic, but I couldn't tell you. Then there's the mystery plot. More on Boychik Lit blog

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I did not enjoy reading this book. I continued to try to read it because I was on vacation and I was desperate for reading material. I never had any feelings for any of the characters. The main character seemed to be an egotistical womanizer, which was not appealing, to say the least. Perhaps starting the narrative in first person should have been a giveaway. I finally stopped reading when I had access to English books at an airport terminal and bought a new one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jrobertus

    This is a difficult book to review because it has so much going on. Initially I found it very engaging. An intellectual property lawyer, Jake Mishkin, gets a 17th century document to guard. It is a narrative by a man named Bracegirdle. These are a series of letters to his wife relating his life and in particular his role as a spy meant to keep an eye on the Catholic William Shakespeare. The letter was discovered by a film nerd, Albert Crosetti, working in a rare book store, along with an enigmat This is a difficult book to review because it has so much going on. Initially I found it very engaging. An intellectual property lawyer, Jake Mishkin, gets a 17th century document to guard. It is a narrative by a man named Bracegirdle. These are a series of letters to his wife relating his life and in particular his role as a spy meant to keep an eye on the Catholic William Shakespeare. The letter was discovered by a film nerd, Albert Crosetti, working in a rare book store, along with an enigmatic young woman, Karen Rolly. The Bracegirdle papers allude to encrypted letters to his boss which reveal WS’s actions and the existence of a manuscript of a never seen play all of which are of great value. This brings in Shakespeare scholars, the Jewish-Russian mafia, Mishkin’s criminal father and all kinds of other stuff. The Bracegirdle narrative intercuts the current day drama and is great fun to read and sets up an engrossing thriller. The book goes into a lot of backstories, like why Mishkin is a lapsed Catholic, and his brother a Jesuit priest, while their dad is a Jewish gangster. Who is Ms. Rolly and what’s her lying game? The chase goes to England and finds gangsters there. Finally Crosetti is a film buff with dreams of Hollywood and spends a lot of time analyzing movies and screen plays. Clearly there is a lot to work with and some of it is interesting and a lot of fun. I thought way too much time was spent on Mishkin’s sexual addiction and Crosetti’s love for the devious Rolly did not ring true, unless we assume he is an idiot. The denouement was also slapdash, like something from a Buster Keaton movie. So there you are. A mixed bag which when weighted for pluses and minuses is sort of 31/2 stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    Another shakespeare conspiracy that I just couldn't get into. Another shakespeare conspiracy that I just couldn't get into.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Scaling this book is akin to reading three different fictions at once. Lawyer Jake Mishkin narrates his own current-day personal, professional, and purloining exploits. We are apprised of the dealing and dodging of bookstore clerk Albert Cosetti. Interspersed within the two tales are the letters of Richard Bracegirdle, a 17th Century ironsmith turned accountant, turned spy on William Shakespeare. Each element sets a pace toward a collision. Mishkin, a New York intellectual property attorney, beco Scaling this book is akin to reading three different fictions at once. Lawyer Jake Mishkin narrates his own current-day personal, professional, and purloining exploits. We are apprised of the dealing and dodging of bookstore clerk Albert Cosetti. Interspersed within the two tales are the letters of Richard Bracegirdle, a 17th Century ironsmith turned accountant, turned spy on William Shakespeare. Each element sets a pace toward a collision. Mishkin, a New York intellectual property attorney, becomes enmeshed in an international treasure chase, evading two different criminal outfits. Cosetti becomes enamored with a coworker who excels in bookbinding methods and he hunts for her when she disappears. Bracegirdle, about to expire from war wounds, inscribes details of his spying mission on an English playwright suspected of treason. The Bracegirdle letters are both coded and plain text pennings, but they are presented in Jacobean secretary hand. Perusing these letters becomes easier to decipher as we creep toward the ending. The font seems authentic, but is the material truthful? The writings imply that an unknown, unpublished play by Shakespeare exists and has been hidden. But we need to discover if that treasure survives, if the writings might be a ruse, or whether a forged play could be a scam. A slight flaw in Michael Gruber’s novel might be the Cosetti narrative, which is too intimately detailed to really be part of Mishkin’s seemingly paranoiac testimony. In other words, the author has imposed himself into the actual story-telling. Or put another way, the novel becomes a story within a story within a story. William Shakespeare had suggested that writing is but air and shadows. Today, we would suggest that fiction mesmerizes us by using smoke and mirrors, a slight-of-hand technique. The compelling intrigue of this book is that many things do not appear to be what they claim. Any Shakespeare fan should be inspired by Michael Gruber’s masterful Bracegirdle letters. Any librarian should be enthused by his bookman’s detailing of Cosetti’s bookbinding exploits. And any reader should be thrilled by Mishkin’s detective work. Poof!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Hayes

    When I started reading this book I didn't think I'd like it, and wrote some initial thoughts on my blog, here The book of air and shadows | Khanya. But it seemed to improve as it went along, and in the end I rather enjoyed it. In a way it reminded me of The de Vinci Code in that the characters go running around in search of a myterious artifact, pursued by shadow villains, with secret ciphers that need to be solved. But The book of air ans shadows seems to be better written, and the plot holes a When I started reading this book I didn't think I'd like it, and wrote some initial thoughts on my blog, here The book of air and shadows | Khanya. But it seemed to improve as it went along, and in the end I rather enjoyed it. In a way it reminded me of The de Vinci Code in that the characters go running around in search of a myterious artifact, pursued by shadow villains, with secret ciphers that need to be solved. But The book of air ans shadows seems to be better written, and the plot holes are not quite so crass and annoying. I suppose one of the reasons I found The da Vinci code annoying is that history is my subject, and that book was based on obviously bogus history. In The book of air and shadows the plot revolves around accidentally discovered ancient documents that seem to point to a hitherto unknown play of Shakespeare which might be found if only the coded letters can be deciphered. Perhaps the difference is that I know more about history than I do about Shakespeare and dramatic art generally. I mean I've read some of Shakespeare's plays and seen some of them performed on stage and screen and found them enjoyable enough but truth to tell I found author Samuel Beckett]'s Waiting for Godot or Jean Genet's The Balcony just as enjoyable, if not more so. No doubt this will mark me as a Philistine among the true devotees of Shakespeare, but I'm just saying that this is why my bullshite detectors were more sensitive to The da Vinci code, and if there was similar nonsense in this book, I was less able to detect it. But The da Vinci code was simply ludicrous. A character who was supposed to be an expert cryptographer could not detect simple mirror writing, and they went on puzzling about it for several pages while the reader is urging them not to be so thick and just get on with it. In The book of air and shadows, by contrast just about every character has a go at deciphering the coded letters, and somehow manage to solve the puzzle with ridiculous ease. Though there are plot holes, they are not quite as annoying as in some other books, and it is generally better written, and there are some occasional quite astute observations. There are two main characters: a rich intellectual property lawyer, Jake Mishkin, and a poor book shop assistant, Albert Crosetti, who dreams of being a film director. They only meet about halfway through the book, and the lawyer's story is told in the first person, while the film fan's is told in the third person. At one point after they have met they are discussing movies and life, and Mishkin is interested in Crosetti's view that movies really determine our sense of how to behave, and more than that, our sense of what is real. 'surely not,' Mishkin objected. 'Surely it's the other way around -- filmmakers take popular ideas and embody them in films.' 'No, the movies come first. For example, no one ever had a fast-draw face-to-face shoot-out on the dusty Main Street of a Western town. It never happened, ever. A screenwriter invented it for dramatic effect. It's the classic American trope, redemption through violence, and it comes through the movies. There were very few handguns in the real Old West. They were heavy and expensive and no one but an idiot would wear one in a side holster. On a horse? When you wanted to kill someone in the Old West, you waited for your chance and shot him in the back, usually with a shotgun. Now we have a zillion handguns because the movies taught us that a handgun is something a real man has to have, and people really kill each other like fictional Western gunslingers. And it's not just thugs. Movies shape everyone's reality, to the extent that it's shaped by human action -- foreign policy, business, sexual relationships, family dynamics, the whole nine yards. It used to be the Bible but now it's movies. Why is there stalking? Because we know that the guy should persist and make a fool of himself until the girl admits that she loves him. We've all seen it. Why is there date rape? Because the asshole is waiting for the moment whem resistance turns to passion. He's seen Nicole and Reese do it fifty times. We make these little decisions, day by day, and we end up with a world. This one, like it or not.' It's bits like that that make the book worth reading, and that particular bit reminded me of Jean Genet's The balcony.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    As a result of a fire in a used bookstore, the employees discover the letters of a man who spied on Shakespeare and clues to the presence of a long lost play. Or is the whole thing a hoax. Initially difficult to read because of its multiple voice, the book does become engaging and engrossing even while its characters remain somewhat cardboard. But that seems to have been Gruber intention since it is written very much like a hard-boiled detective novel. As an additional joy, Goodreads provided me As a result of a fire in a used bookstore, the employees discover the letters of a man who spied on Shakespeare and clues to the presence of a long lost play. Or is the whole thing a hoax. Initially difficult to read because of its multiple voice, the book does become engaging and engrossing even while its characters remain somewhat cardboard. But that seems to have been Gruber intention since it is written very much like a hard-boiled detective novel. As an additional joy, Goodreads provided me with a review of it by a friend, Madeleine Brown, who passed away. It's good to know that, like Shakespeare, her writing has kept her alive.

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