four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-The Book of Air and ShadowsWhen the beautiful Carolyn Rolly and aspiring filmmaker Albert Crosetti find letters from a 17th-century soldier in an antiquarian bookstore on Madison Avenue, Crosetti believes they could lead to one of Shakespeare’s lost plays. He sells most to a Shakespearean scholar but retains a few encrypted notes. The scholar then turns over the letters to intellectual property lawyer and former weightlifter Jake Mishkin—and is soon found dead. As Mishkin hides from Russian gangsters, his and Crosetti’s paths cross—and they race to find the Bard’s missing manuscript.
Morrow. 466 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0060874465

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"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 characters, even those long dead, are learning how to live." Clea Simon

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"What Michael Gruber has omitted in car chases and shootouts (and rest easy, those elements aren’t completely erased), he’s more than made up for with a rich cast of characters who are difficult to leave when the final pages are turned. … Gruber is a master of his material." Robin Vidimos

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Putting the hunt for a never-before-seen play by William Shakespeare at the center of this multifaceted story is brilliant. … The 17th-century letters are written in the Jacobean style popular during Shakespeare’s lifetime. Tough going at first, but readers will quickly get the hang of it—and enjoy it." Carol Memmott

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"So what does Gruber’s book have that something like The Da Vinci Code lacks? Well, stylish and confident prose, for starters. … Its cryptographic details threaten to swamp the narrative at times, and you may want to slap Jake around a bit and tell him to get a grip." Adam Woog

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"What follows is a wild story of double-crossings, forgeries, kidnappings and murders that’s engrossing even when it’s ridiculous. … While twisting the plot into great knots of complexity, Gruber mixes in fascinating details about rare manuscripts, intellectual property, and ancient and modern cryptography." Ron Charles

Critical Summary

With literary-historical thrillers still piling up on bookstore shelves, Michael Gruber (Night of the Jaguar, 3.5 of 5 Stars 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).