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The Book of Air and Shadows Paperback – February 26, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this ingenious literary thriller from Gruber (The Witch's Boy), the lives of two men are changed forever by William Shakespeare and the letters of Richard Bracegirdle, a 16th-century English spy and soldier. Jake Mishkin, a Manhattan intellectual property attorney and a bit of a rake, goes on the run from Russian gangsters. Albert Crosetti, an aspiring filmmaker working for an antiquarian bookstore, finds that life is more exciting than movies—perhaps too exciting. Together, Mishkin and Crosetti travel to England in search of a previously unknown Shakespeare manuscript mentioned by Bracegirdle. Though the pace sometimes slows to allow Mishkin, Crosetti and Bracegirdle to divulge interesting aspects of their personal lives, these digressions only make the story more engaging. The suspense created around the double-crosses and triple-crosses works because of the close connection readers forge with Crosetti in particular. The mysterious murder of a Shakespearean scholar, shootouts in the streets of Queens and an unlikely romance all combine to make for a gripping, satisfying read. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

With literary-historical thrillers still piling up on bookstore shelves, Michael Gruber (Night of the Jaguar, ***1/2 July/Aug 2006) took a risk with The Book of Air and Shadows. While the novel will appeal to those who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code or The Rule of Four, critics agree that its lively dialogue, compellingly flawed characters, sense of humor, and intelligent exploration of religion and cryptology elevate it far above the genre's standard fare. Readers expecting car chases, kidnappings, globe trotting, sex, and murder won't be disappointed, either. A few reviewers stumbled a bit over the excerpts of the Jacobean-style letters, but all agreed that the novel "hits the ground running ? until disparate plot threads are brought together in a heart-stopping climax" (Denver Post).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: HARPER (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061456578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061456572
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public schools. I went to Columbia, earning a BA in English literature.. After college I did editorial work at various small magazines in New York, and then went back to school at City College and got the equivalent of a second BA, in biology. After that I went to the University of Miami and got a masters in marine biology. In 1968-69 I was in the U. S. Army as a medic.

In 1973, I received my Ph.D. in marine sciences, for a study of octopus behavior. Then I was a chef at several Miami restaurants. Then I was a hippie traveling around in a bus and working as a roadie for various rock groups. Then I worked for the county manager of Metropolitan Dade County, as an analyst. Then I was director of planning for the county department of human resources.

I went to Washington DC in 1977, and worked in the Carter White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Then I worked in the Environmental Protection Agency as a policy analyst and also as the speechwriter for the Administrator. In 1986, I was promoted to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S., the highest level of the federal civil service. That same year, Robert K. Tanenbaum contacted me and asked me to write a courtroom thriller to be published under his name. I did that, and since then I have also written the first fifteen novels in the popular Butch Karp and Marlene series.

In 1988 I left Washington, D.C. and settled in Seattle, where I worked as a speechwriter and environmental expert for the state land commissioner. I have been a full-time freelance writer since 1990, mostly on the Karp novels, but also doing non-fiction magazine pieces on biology. My first novel under my own name, TROPIC OF NIGHT, was published in 2003 (William Morrow) and a second novel, VALLEY OF BONES, as well as a children's book THE WITCH'S BOY (Harper Collins) came out in 2005. A third thriller for Morrow, NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR is due out in early 2006. I am married, with three grown children and an extremely large dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Libertas_Optima on May 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Imagine the possibility of finding a new play by William Shakespeare! During restoration work on a 16th century book enticing letters are found that hint at the existence of an unknown play by Shakespeare. Obviously a major coup and soon after the discovery everybody seems to after this unknown manuscript, including a bunch of Russian mobsters and some Jewish gangsters.

The novel is made up of three story lines that converge as the story develops. Richard Bracegirdle, the letter writer from the 16th century; Jake Mishkin an Intellectual Property Lawyer; and Albert Crosetti an aspiring filmmaker making a living working for an antiquarian bookshop. The author uses the written word eloquently to bring three distinct characters to life in such a way that you get absolutely and completely absorbed in the narrative. The novel does not totally focus on the thrill of the chase to find the illusive manuscript, but incorporates the (dysfunctional) lives and loves of the main characters to give a rounded whole.

This is a literary detective story, where you will find it difficult to anticipate where the narrative will take you next, with the only way forward to turn the pages quickly to the next and the next. I think the novel holds something for everyone, even if you don't know anything about Shakespeare or books. I have to admit that this book is one of the best I have read so far this year and will definitely anticipate the next book of this author.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Darleen Michael Baker on September 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having read Gruber's first two books Tropic of Night and Valley of Bones I wasn't sure I was ready for a third. The first two having left me a bit nonplussed. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy books and movies that take a detour around reality but those two books made a right angle turn somewhere and I'm not sure I'm over them yet!

TBoAAS is a whole other beast. Slow moving, tedious at times, it none-the-less hooked me and drew me in until I could not walk away. I felt that that the first 2/3's of the book moved at a glacial pace. Which is great if you want to fully involve youself in the characters and the plot. At some point, which I can't precisely pin down, the pace picked up and hauled me, open-mouthed, to the final pages.

Honestly, who would have thought combining a self-absorbed, womanizing lawyer (a heavy lifter, literally, to boot) with a dreamy young man who believes life is literally determined by the movies and setting them on what may or may not be a wild goose chase for an unknown Shakespearean manuscript could prove to be so entertaining?

As a mark of how well done the book is, I shed a few tears at the end, not because it was sad but because the story was over. To date only two other writers have affected me that way.

You don't have to be a literary, artsy type to get into this story, btw. You DO need to persevere long enough to let the story get hold of you. Then you're stuck. Happily so, I might add.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jody TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Far from an ordinary genre thriller, "The Book of Air and Shadows" is a complicated tale spanning four centuries. Within the requisite context of action and suspense, societal, cultural and historical issues are addressed with wit and style.

There's lots of shoot 'em up action in this story, told by an assortment of engagingly flawed characters--Shakespeare himself is in the mix--a very difficult device Mr. Gruber pulls off without a false step. Wild plot twists and digressions on topics as varied as the guilt of the very rich, the influence of movies on culture and the nature of truth make it an entertaining and memorable read. Mr. Gruber did some prodigious scholarship; there's information about bookbinding, 17th century armaments, the development of mathematics, Shakespearean lore, the Russian Mob, and geology.

Gruber deftly illustrates the foibles of the main characters (and what foibles they are!) with humor and keeps the reader as curious about them as about the next plot twist. Some charming and well-defined minor characters keep the book from becoming too angst-ridden and their contributions make the main players' voyages of self discovery as riveting as the plentiful action.

This is one of the few thrillers I've read recently that didn't waste my time. It's very smart, very satisfying and well, thrilling.
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202 of 250 people found the following review helpful By Pie on March 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In all the years that I've been buying books on Amazon I have never taken the time to write a book review. Lazy? Yes. Selfish? Probably. But this novel irked me enough that I had to finally post words online. Let me say that I am a book a week reader with a wide variety of tastes. Only about once or twice a year do I put a book aside unfinished. And Book of Air and Shadows gets that dubious distinction for 2008.

The main reason? Jake is unbearable to read. I'm all for an anti-hero. In fact I kind of dig them. But Jake is so smarmy and proud of his bedroom conquests that I couldn't help wondering if the author was perhaps giving us insight into his own frustrated sexual fantasies.

So okay. Jake likes sex. Cool. Go for it guy. But when 75% of what he has to say is about bedding women it's not exactly helping propel the story forward.

My frustration was compounded by the fact that the other narrators were more interesting and actually had something to say...storywise. Each time I turned the page and saw it was a Jake chapter I groaned outloud. Finally I had to just give up the fight.

There it is. My first ever review. Sure hope it helps someone else out there in Amazon-land.
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