Book of Air and Shadows

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Overview

"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 ...

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New York, NY 2007 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 466 p. Audience: General/trade. After a grease-fire burns down a ... rare-books shop, aspiring screenwriter Albert Crosetti discovers a hidden letter from a 17th-century English spy that may reveal the location of a lost manuscript by Shakespeare. Albert turns for help to a Columbia professor, who in turn introduces him to Jake Mishkin, a weightlifter and lawyer on the run. Read more Show Less

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New York, NY 2007 Hard cover First Printing, based on Printers key, stated first edition. New in new dust jacket. First edition. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust ... jacket. 466 p. Audience: General/trade. After a grease-fire burns down a rare-books shop, aspiring screenwriter Albert Crosetti discovers a hidden letter from a 17th-century English spy that may reveal the location of a lost manuscript by Shakespeare. Albert turns for help to a Columbia professor, who in turn introduces him to Jake Mishkin, a weightlifter and lawyer on the run. Read more Show Less

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New York 2007 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. Signed by Author(s) Hardcover. Book Condition: NEW and UNREAD. Dust Jacket Condition: NEW and Mylar Protected. 1st ... Edition/1st Printing. SIGNED by Michael Gruber on the Full Title Page. Read more Show Less

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The Book of Air and Shadows

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Overview

"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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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
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.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Praised author Gruber (Tropic of Night) attempts to join The Da Vinci Codefrenzy in his latest thriller, which centers on a hunt for an unknown autographed Shakespeare play. References to this play turn up in seemingly innocuous letters used as filler in the binding of an old book. Mishkin, an intellectual property attorney, comes into possession of some of these documents through his client, a Shakespearean scholar. Crosetti, who discovered the papers while working at a rare-book store, partners with Mishkin to find the play after the scholar's murder. The play is eventually found, but has it all been an intricate scam? Though the book sounds enthralling on paper, it falls far short. The letters are transcribed for us—slow-reading Jacobean English thrust into a thriller. Think rumble strips on an interstate. Gruber is heavy on the family drama and introspection, too. The best part: librarians are portrayed as brilliant and sexy. This difficult-to-follow novel is recommended only for popular fiction collections desiring all of this author's titles. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/06.]
—Laura A.B. Cifelli Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Encoded Jacobean documents suggest the existence of an un-produced Shakespeare play written in the bard's own hand. There is, as one would expect, considerable interest in the location of that work. Thriller author Gruber (Night of the Jaguar, 2006, etc.) steps away from his usual Miami haunts to make mischief in New York in a fast-moving and often hilarious tale about the usually torpid worlds of rare books and academia. The action begins with a grease fire that spreads from a restaurant to the rare-book shop next door, where labors would-be screenwriter Albert Crosetti, youngest of the many prodigiously talented children of a librarian and her late detective husband. Alone in the shop, Albert is able to rescue the most valuable volumes, but water severely damages one of the gems in the basement, a work that the store's owner gives to Albert's coworker Carolyn Rolly to break up for its prints and maps, as he reports a total loss to the insurers. With Albert's assistance, Carolyn, a gifted bookbinder, sets about reconstructing the book for possible resale and discovers, packed under the binding, correspondence from Richard Bracegirdle, a 17th-century puritan spy with a connection to Shakespeare. Albert has fallen in love with Carolyn during the damage-control process, and the two take the documents for authentication to a Columbia professor who in turn takes them for safekeeping to intellectual-property lawyer, world-class skirt-chaser and Olympian weightlifter Jake Mishkin. The professor's death by torture at the hands of Russian thugs pushes Mishkin into a detection process that imperils his and Albert's families and ultimately takes everyone to Warwickshire to try to unearth what maybe the most valuable theatrical property in the universe. A wonderful story with absolutely superb casting. Agent: Simon Lipskar/Writers House LLC
From the Publisher
"Stylish and confident prose…. Dialogue that respects a reader's intelligence. A smart and original plot…. And…a sense of humor." ---The Seattle Times
Boston Globe
“A smart thriller. Gruber’s themes may be lofty but his people are fully fleshed. An engaging adventure.”
Rocky Mountain News
“Finely-honed prose, ambitious structure and captivating characters...This is a whip-smart adventure that surpasses its competitors with dexterity.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Gruber deftly raises the thriller stakes and accelerates the plot while still creating convincing personal journeys for his characters.”
Ventura County Star
“(An) entertaining thriller with Da Vinci Code appeal but far better writing.”
Seattle Times
“Fearless, intricate and intelligent. Stylish and confident prose. Dialogue that respects a reader’s intelligence. A smart and original plot.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“A gripping literary thriller. A taut novel that offers ingenious puzzles plus murderous threats along the way.”
TheMorningNews.com
“Another one of [Gruber’s] patently intricate thrillers.”
Newsday
“MIchael Gruber pulls out all the stops (in) an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse.”
Maclean's
“Very good...ingenious and suspenseful.”
BookPage
“Not since Bayatt’s POSSESSION has an author so successfully combined literary puzzle, tempestuous duplicity, human adventure and good storytelling.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A dead genius, a sleuthing couple with romantic chemistry, and some bad guys...it’s a fun party.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Gruber is no ordinary writer.”
Dallas Morning News
“A crackling whodunit. Characters (with) rich inner lives that transmute genre fiction into literature.”
Wichita Eagle
“A wild ride of a thriller. The characters have depth, histories and believability.”
Chicago Tribune
“A wonderful book, brimming with energy, suspense, wit and fascinating details about the rare book business. A fast-paced yarn that is part Henry James, part James Bond.
Arizona Republic
“Smart and irreverent.”
Salon.com
“Quirky, flawed characters, tricksy first-person narration, and nimble, witty prose. Gruber is the real deal.”
Edmonton Journal (Canada)
“(An) intoxicating mix of fact, fiction, secret codes and ancient conspiracies...well-written and cleverly told. A terrific thriller.”
USA Today
“Few thrillers will surpass [this book] when it comes to energetic writing, compellingly flawed characters, literary scholarship and mathematical conundrums.”
Denver Post
“An intricately crafted and literate work (that) should give the (thriller) genre a good shake.”
Tampa Tribune
“(An) intelligent thrill ride.”
Washington Post
“If you love books, make room on the shelf for a new guilty pleasure.”
Charlotte Observer
“One of the best new writers in the genre.”
Booklist
"Gruber deftly raises the thriller stakes and accelerates the plot while still creating convincing personal journeys for his characters."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060874469
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Gruber

Michael Gruber has been a marine biologist, a restaurant cook, a federal government official, and a political speechwriter.

Stephen Hoye has won more than a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards and two prestigious APA Audie Awards, including one for Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. He has recorded many other notable titles, such as Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong and The Google Story by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed.

Biography

Michael Gruber, in his own words:

I was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public schools. I went to Columbia, earning a B.A. 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 B.A., in biology.

After that I went to the University of Miami and got an M.A. in marine biology. In 1968-69, I was in the Army as a medic.

In 1973, I received my Ph.D. 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, D.C., 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. I started writing freelance at that time, and shortly after being promoted to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S., I left Washington and settled in Seattle. I worked for a while for the state land commissioner, but since 1988 I have been a full-time writer.

I am married, with three grown children and an extremely large dog.

Good To Know

Some interesting anecdotes from our interview with Gruber:

"My first job was writing copy for Classics Comics, which was the best job I ever had. Reducing Tolstoy to thought balloons!"

"I did my Ph.D. on the relation between moray eels and octopuses. As a result of this work, I am one of the few people who have been bitten by both a moray eel and an octopus. Being bitten by a moray is much like catching your finger in a car door. Being bitten by an octopus is like being snakebit. Your arm swells up and turns black."

"I was once a member of a traveling commune called the Hog Farm. I was the cook on one of the buses. My roadkill dumplings were famous throughout the mobile counterculture. I once made eggs Benedict for 14 hippies on the banks of the Rio Grande. Aside from that my life has been fairly dull and no fun at all."

"I have no hobbies. The only thing I do with my time is reading, writing, and research. I walk my dog. I occasionally dig in the garden, but we have a gardener and this tends to upset her. I never unwind, except I get drunk with a bunch of journalists every Friday. Every Wednesday I teach snippets of Catholic theology to people who wish to join the Church."

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    1. Hometown:
      Seattle, Washington
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 1, 1940
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Columbia University, 1961; Ph.D., University of Miami, 1973
    2. Website:

First Chapter

Book of Air and Shadows, The LP

Chapter One

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 sees this, as dead as, say, Tolstoy. Or Shakespeare. Does it matter, when you read, if the person who wrote still lives? It sort of does, I think. If you read something by a living writer, you could, at least in theory, dash off a letter, establish a relationship maybe. I think a lot of readers feel this way. Some readers write to fictional characters as well, which is a little spookier.

But clearly I am not dead yet, although this could change at any moment, one reason why I'm writing this down. It's a fact of writing that the writer never knows the fate of the text he's grinding out, paper being good for so many uses other than displaying words in ordered array, nor are the tiny electromagnetic charges I am creating on this laptop machine immune to the insults of time. Bracegirdle is definitely dead, having succumbed to wounds received at the battle of Edgehill in the English Civil War, sometime in late October of 1642. We think. But dead nevertheless, although before dying he composed the fifty-two-page manuscript that has more or less screwed up my life, or killed me, I don't know which yet. Or maybe the little professor was more to blame, Andrew Bulstrode, because he dropped the thing in my lap and then got himself murdered, or I could blame Mickey Haas, my old college roomie, who turned Bulstrode on to me. Mickey's still alive as far as I know, or the girl, the woman I should say, she has to carry some freight for this, because I seriously doubt Iwould have plunged as I did if I had not spied her long white neck rising from her collar there in the Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room of the New York Public Library, and wanted to kiss it so much it made my jaw hurt.

And Albert Crosetti and his unusual mom and his even more remarkable girlfriend, Carolyn, if girlfriend she is, all discoverers, and explicators, and decipherers, of Bracegirdle, my nemesis, without whom . . .

I don't forget the actual villains, but I can't really blame them. Villains are just there, like rust, dull and almost chemical in the stupid simplicity of their greed or pride. Remarkable how easy it is to avoid these, how often we fail to do so. Not to mention Mary, Queen of Scots (speaking of stupid), one more conspiracy added to her score, even if all she did in this case was to exist. Naturally, I blame my dad, the old crook. And why not? I blame him for everything else.

I see I am not doing this right. Okay, regain focus, at least array the facts, and begin by identifying the writer, me, Jake Mishkin, by profession an intellectual property lawyer. I believe that some gangsters may in the near future attempt to kill me. Although there is a kind of lawyer who can reasonably expect a certain level of physical danger as part of the employment picture, I am not that kind of lawyer—by design, actually. In my youth, I was familiar enough with such lawyers; a few of them, I have reason to believe, actually did get whacked, and so when I chose my field of law I made sure it was one in which the ordinary participants did not routinely pack heat. IP law has its share of violent lunatics (perhaps more than its share), but when they scream obscenities and threaten to kill you and your client, they are, almost all the time, speaking figuratively.

Even then, much of this venom is directed at litigators, and I am not a litigator. I don't have the personality for it, being a large peaceful person who believes that nearly all lawsuits, especially those involving intellectual property, are stupid, often grotesquely so, and that the underlying issues in virtually all of them could be solved by reasonable people in twenty minutes of conversation. This is not the mind-set of a successful litigator. Ed Geller, our senior partner, is a litigator: he is a pugnacious, aggressive, flamboyant, obnoxious little man, a being who might have served as the template for any nasty lawyer joke, yet to my certain knowledge, Ed (an individual for whom I have, by the way, the utmost professional respect) has never heard the snap of a bullet fired at him with bad intent, or tussled with thugs bent on robbery, both of which are now part of my life experience.

I should say that IP law is divided broadly into industrial, which covers trademarks and patents, and probably software fits in this class too, and copyright, which covers all the arts of humanity—music, writing, films, images of all kinds, Mickey Mouse, etc., and I will record here the instinctive punch of the special key on my machine that adds the sacred © to the little rodent's name, and which I have just gone back and removed, because this is a new me writing this whatever it is. My firm, Geller Linz Grossbart & Mishkin, is a copyright house, and although each of the partners handles the full spectrum of copyright work, you could make a case that each of us has a different specialty. Marty Linz does TV and movies, Shelly Grossbart does music, Ed Geller is, as I said, our litigation chief. And I handle the literary business, which means I spend a good deal of time with writers, enough to realize that I am not and will never be one of their number. Quite a few of my clients have told me, often with a patronizing tone, that within every lawyer is a strangled poet, attributing the quotation to a variety of different authors. I don't really mind this sort of thing, since . . . Book of Air and Shadows, The LP. Copyright © by Michael Gruber. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 81 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(23)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(13)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2011

    Could have been a great read

    Great premise but extremely shallow protagonist and ultimately a MOST BORING read. Gave up about halfway through. Don't bother.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Don't even bother!

    The characters were unlikable. The writing style was a jumble and confusing. There was nothing whatsoever redeeming about this book. I read over half of the 466 pages since I paid for the book, and I was irritated, not entertained. I finally decided to throw the book away, but then I thought I'd read the last couple of dozen pages, and I'm glad I did not bother slogging through the whole book. The author had a great plot idea, but it was executed very poorly. I will certainly never read anything else by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    When will it start?

    Ok - so I haven't finished this book - I am plowing through it and it is rough tilling. I have a rule - once you start a book, finish it but I keep waiting for the book to get started. It seems weighed down in a bit of over explaination I am typically a "start and read to the finish" type person - have picked up and finished 4 other books at this point. I don't go back to this book out of interest - just trying to get my money out of it and the hopes it will start to "run along."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2009

    Good Read

    This was a summer book read for me and it fulfilled all of my expectations. It provides a thrilling plot stretched over three narrators. Good characters, I learned something, and was happy to be along for the ride. I've since bought and finished another by this author about art and time travel and found it just as satisfying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Least Fav Gruber Book

    Michael Gruber is one of my favorite authors, unfortunatly this is his only book ~I've read them all,Karp novels included~ I didn't enjoy. I've loved every one of the rest of his books, can't put my finger on why I didn't enjoy this one. I found the long letters teadious & maybe the topic wasn't of much interest to me. Michael Gruber is still an author of outstanding talent & depth.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2013

    Great read...RADAR...

    When I finished this novel...I went back to the book store and bought all of Michael Grubers novels...RADAR...07-13-2013...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    seems decent

    I read a different book by this author (The Forgery of Venus) and it was unexpected but quite fun to read. This one is a bit confusing so far (a lot of different names to keep track of), but I think it should also be fun & interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

    Boring

    Never made it through chapter one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Never could get through it

    I'm not usually one to give up on a book, but I had to let thus one go. There were long excerpts from letters, which I'm sure were ultimately importsnt to the plot, that really did not hold my attention. The redt of the plot was a bit slow for my persinal taste as well. The characters wwre interedtung and well developed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Great premise gone awry with loathsome protagonist Jake

    I had great hopes for this book. The premise was interesting. Who would not relish another gift from the Bard! The author is very intelligent and speaks with clarity on many subjects and his wit is superb. However, the character development, especially that of Jake was based on his sexual prowess and everything else in his character was shadowed by his sexual escapades that always took precedence. I felt he was so shallow and one dimensional when given all the experiences, I would have expected more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Dan Brown for Intellectuals

    The story resembles the Dan Brown books but this one is much more literary. I'm wanting to read his other books.

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  • Posted February 10, 2010

    Bellcurve of a Book.

    I had high hopes for this novel. The writing style was unique and little hard to get used to, taking me about 100 pages to really get into the story. Once in though, I was captivated. However, I was ultimatly disappointed.

    The author did a wonderful job developing the flawed characters. The plot was webbed together fantastically. Nearing the end however I felt as if the author got tired of his own story and tried to wrap it up too quickly. Too much resolution to fast. I would have rather had a longer book, than the anticlimatic ending I was given.

    That to me was the biggest "surprise", how such a talented author could rush through the end of such a wonderfully written story.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent-non formula writing. Gruber steps out of the box to write one of the best books I have read in years. You want to continue reading to see if he can match or top his imagery while telling his story. Good all the way to the last page.

    Excellent-non formula writing. Gruber steps out of the box to write one of the best books I have read in years. You want to continue reading to see if he can match or top his imagery while telling his story. Good all the way to the last page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    For those who enjoy a book where the ending is not obvious.

    Michael Gruber's books are always challenging and rewarding. He weaves complex plots with twists and turns that the make it impossible for the reader to anticipate where it is going next. As in his other works, the narrative develops in several different time periods; in this case the present, the times of William Shakespeare and those of a writer of a missive that contains the plot's mystery. A knowledge of literature will make the reading more interesting and deeper.
    The plot requires your undivided attention if you are to follow the intricacies of the action. It is, nevertheless, a fascinating book difficult to put down.

    I found the Forgery of Venus more interesting, but this one will not disappoint.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    Maybe but. . .

    I have started this book several times but cannot get past the first 100 pages. I realize I might be missing something really good if only I pressed on; however, I am quitting.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fair Book

    The story about the research on the book was good, it was the meandering plot about the character's love life that had nothing to do with the book that decreased its value for me.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Worth the Read eventually

    It took me quite some time to get into this book but by the time I got finished it was one of the best books I've read this year. The time period is not one I like to read about but I like medicine, science and mystery and I am a woman so this was just the book for me. I didn't know there were any women doctors during the 1100's much less one like this character who was really a coroner. Overall I liked it.

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  • Posted June 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Best of a bunch

    The plot of chasing after an original lost Shakespheare manuscript is not new, but this book is about the best of the bunch. It drags however as the author rambles on and on about not much.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent, mentally stimulating book

    I really enjoyed the writing style of this book - very different. Also, the three story lines - wonderful. Very mentally stimulating as well as great subject matter. Good character development. Plot kept you wanting to read more.

    I will be reading some of his older books now as well.

    Thumper3

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Minds Think Alike

    I found out about this book because a friend thought I was talking about this one when I was actually referring to Jennifer Lee Carrell's "Interred With His Bones" (Oct. 2007). Both books are about the possible discovery of a lost Shakespeare play, and both deal with conspiracies trying to cover it up. Carrell's book is much more like "The DaVinci Code", and is fraught with the same 'potboiler' narrative. Gruber's style jumps you back and forth between a first person narrative and a third person narrative, frequently interrupted by letters written in the 17th Century. They're both fun to read, however, especially if you have any kind of background in Shakespeare.
    Gruber's book actually is a good companion to some of the many non-fiction speculations about the Bard of Avon so prevalent today.

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