- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; First Paperback Edition edition (1 Aug. 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007251904
- ISBN-13: 978-0007251902
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,033,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Book of Air and Shadows Paperback – 1 Aug 2007
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"Author Michael Gruber and his publisher have to be thrilled by the comparisons being drawn between 'The Book of Air and Shadows' and 'The Da Vinci Code,' but . . the real treasure for the readers is the players themselves. . . Shakespeare might have called them 'poor players who strut and fret their hour upon the stage,' but as they leave the stage at the end of this exhilarating run, you hope you hear from them – and Gruber – again soon.
New York Daily News.
'Bookshelves across the country are cracking under the weight of thrillers… But few will surpass The Book of Air and Shadows when it comes to energetic writing, compellingly flawed characters, literary scholarship, mathematical conundrums and that oh-so-necessary dose of comic relief…
(We never had this much fun reading The Da Vinci Code.) Gruber…has raised the stakes in the thriller genre.'
"If all the world's a play, and we are merely players, where do we get our scripts? That's the underlying question in Michael Gruber's smart new thriller, 'The Book of Air and Shadows.' . . . If 'The Book of Air and Shadows,' a contemporary Elizabethan reference to the missing play, sounds overly refined, think again. Gruber's themes may be lofty, but his people – notably his narrators – are fully fleshed and often funny, with arch senses of humour and irony. . . Only rarely does pop culture, from any century, fail these players. When it does, even that is telling. . . Because ultimately even the wily misfits of 'The Book of Air and Shadows' realize we are all simply unaccommodated man, the thing itself, looking for the right words to make sense out of our worlds."
A clever, pacey thriller set around the search for a lost Shakespearean play. 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 centre of a deadly conspiracy and hunt to find a priceless treasure connected to 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. See all Product description
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What I really liked was the three different narrative voices: Mishkin, Colletti and Bracegirdle. Sometimes, when a book is from different characters' points of view, it's hard to tell whose world you are in at any one time. Not so here. Even if you ignore the antique spelling and prose in the Bracegirdle letters, and ignore the first- and third- person distinction between Colletti and Mishkin, the different language, mood and perceptions of the three characters remain energetically distinct from each other.
Underneath the thriller plot there are lots of thoughts about family and belonging: how it can turn into positive or toxic entanglements; and also a huge amount about appearances, perception, presentation and reality (a bit like Virtual Light). I'm also still chewing on the ideas about authentic creation vs the work of IP lawyers, and people behaving according to the scripts they believe that life hands them: none of which are taken too seriously. These give the book a nice amount of literary heft, not too much, just right.
All in all, very satisfying without being too weighty; one to keep and re-read.
Some reviewers seem to judge from the subject matter that this is nothing more than yet another 'Da Vinci Code'-style thriller, dealing in long-hidden arcana which is sought by both goodies and baddies, hence leading to murderous double-dealing and chases across various picturesque bits of the world. Well, yes, there is that. But what makes this superior in my eyes is the quality of the writing and the knowing but skilful way in which Gruber fleshes out the bones of his clever plot.
If you prefer your higher-brow thrillers to be plot-driven, I don't think this will disappoint you. But if you also admire elegantly-crafted puzzles and an array of engaging characters I think you'll find them here, too. Gruber's narrative technique is self-consciously artful, paying overt tribute to Sterne in a way I find curiously affecting ('this account will be another "Tristram Shandy" if I'm not careful, never getting to the ****ing point'). The three-fold narrative pattern allows the tale to unfold at a tantalisingly variable pace; it did begin to grate on me eventually, at just about the time the two protagonists at last begin to draw together. This gave the opportunity to enjoy their reactions to one another. By this stage I was equally engaged by both the wry and hopelessly self-destructive Mishkin and the diffident, film-struck Crosetti. The characters might have been stereotypical - the feisty Irish mother, the saintly wronged wife - but in Gruber's supremely confident hands I found them pretty convincing. I especially like some of the minor characters (Mary Peg and the deeply unlikeable Niko, for instance). The dialogue carries the plot forward without being too obvious about it and characters manage to discuss codes and ciphers without falling as deeply into the pit of info-dumping as Dan Brown and his like. Perhaps Crosetti is a little annoying with his determination to see life as a movie; Mishkin certainly seems to share that view.
Apart from a few very minor caveats (quibbles, really) I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good quality literary thriller.
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