The Book of Air and Shadows: A Novel

The Book of Air and Shadows: A Novel

by Michael Gruber


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061456572
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/26/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 600,023
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

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

Actor Stephen Hoye is a graduate of London's Guildhall and a veteran of London's West End. An award-winning audiobook narrator, he has won thirteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and two prestigious APA Audie Awards.


Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 1, 1940

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Columbia University, 1961; Ph.D., University of Miami, 1973

What People are Saying About This

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

Customer Reviews

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The Book of Air and Shadows 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
Kevin Lenaghan More than 1 year ago
Great premise but extremely shallow protagonist and ultimately a MOST BORING read. Gave up about halfway through. Don't bother.
book-a-holick More than 1 year ago
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.
DC_Love_the_Book More than 1 year ago
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."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
readafew on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This is the first book I've read by Michael Gruber, and while the story telling wasn't bad I never really got into it. I didn't really like any of the characters, and everyone had several big blind spots which strongly affected their judgment, and made me grit my teeth. The book was good enough to get me to the end without pulling out my hair but if I wasn't listening to it on my commute I might not have finished it at all. It just wasn't very engaging. What kept my interest was the Bracegirdle letters that took place in the time of Shakespeare.We follow Jake Mishkin and Albert Crosetti through this book, though most is told through the past musings of Mishkin, except for the trips to the past where Bracegirdle told of his life in a letter to his wife and son. Overall not awful but I doubt I will purposely pick up another one of his books.
woodsathome on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I wanted to like this book, I really did. On paper it had all the elements of a great mystery. Similar in historical scope to the DiVinci Code, but set in the literary world so not as much of an obvious knockoff.But reading the manuscript parts proved exhausting. What could have been, should have been the most intriging part of the story took sooo long to develop that every time I encountered a new section I got that oh no not again feeling. I have to confess I ended up skipping them after a while.Then there was the authors tortured plot twiists (it was real, no wait fake, we've diffinitively proved it fake, but ultimately its really real, we found the forger, but he lied about the forgery... I lost track of the "truth" and the motivations. Honestly, the end made little sense. If the book had been better I'd have probably gone back and reread the last 100 pages or so, but I just couldn't bring myself to care.The author probably really lost me early on with a throw away detail. Setting up how presumably wealthy the narrator was he mentioned as a partner in the law firm billing $75 an hour for 2000 hours a year. Then went on to describe the $50000 spent annually on a personal driver $28000 a year tuition per child and on and on. The kind of careless editing always takes me right out of the book
NatalieSW on LibraryThing 3 months ago
While the premise is as fascinating as those of the author's other books -- his newest included -- the book itself is not as successful. The plot bogs down in the middle and has a hard time pulling itself up. The characters are not as intriguing as those of the Paz novels, nor is the action as compelling. I was disappointed; it didn't put me off reading his newest however, which I enjoyed.
rosslane on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The good is the interesting observations Gruber makes throughout the book. Especially his take on how movies & authors have affected behavior. The historical/Shakespear was interesting. Um, the bad was he went on way, way too lng about the lead characters sex life and problems, and several kinda big plot holes (Carolyn leaving her kids when she could have just gone to the police, people taking the time to drink and have sex with russian mobsters after them, would the Shavonov kill Izzy the Books grandchildren??)
vallimurugesan on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I love the feeling of putting down a good book. Dogged determination to find something in it to like forced me through it, I guess!!!...but in the end I was kinda thankful to put this book down. Why a good literary thriller can¿t be written?! Old adage should be taken seriously ¿ Not always pretty covers have good stories inside them!!!
wvlibrarydude on LibraryThing 3 months ago
A thriller moving between two narrators. There is the lawyer Mishkin and the wannabe young movie maker Crossetti. The characters are filled with their flaws and strengths. The story moves forward a little slow, but wraps up nicely in the end. As a thriller it kept my attention, but at times I wished the characters were a little more engaging. Crossetti's character was the much more attractive one with constant interplay of real life and movie scripts/plotting. Well worth a read.The side letters from Bracegirdle regarding Shakespeare were quite interesting, but not enough to make this actual historical fiction.
samfsmith on LibraryThing 3 months ago
If anyone ever tells you that thrillers can¿t be ¿literary¿ then point them at this novel. Gruber does an excellent job of developing his oddball characters while at the same time spinning out a tale full of twists and turns as the players attempt to decipher coded documents and track down a long-lost Shakespeare play. Most thrillers read like outlines for a good novel, with all the meaty parts left out. Not so Gruber¿s book. It¿s got plenty of meat to chew on.That¿s not to say that I didn¿t see the ending coming. In fact, the plot follows the well worn path of countless thrillers before it. We have the search for a Maguffin, the double and triple cross, the unsuspected villain, the clueless narrator, the chase scene, and so forth and so on. But it¿s great fun and a wonderful read.
dancingstarfish on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I am currently reading this book, and I find myself getting bored and putting it down. Sometimes I'm really interested in the story, but sometimes the author just loses that spark that makes you want to keep reading. Especially when you hit the letters that are printed in between the other two plot lines in the book, those seem to be almost walls for me, I end up coming to one and stopping, and picking up the book later when I happen to want to try again. I don't know if I'll finish this.
Lila_Gustavus on LibraryThing 3 months ago
You would think that after months of exclusive study of Shakespeare¿s work in college and years of reading I would have a better idea of the Bard himself. As it turned out during reading The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, I have no clue. And that might be one of the reasons why I liked this book so much.The Book of Air and Shadows is a great mystery. It starts with Jake Mishkin, an Intellectual Property lawyer hiding in a cottage in some remote place and writing down the events that brought him to the point of fearing for his life. The events were triggered by the letter written in the 17th century by Mr. Bracegirdle. The letter revealed clues to finding a play by Shakespeare that the world didn¿t know existed. Of course if found, the treasure would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and there are many dangerous people who will kill to get it. The narrative switches between Mishkin¿s recollections and the following of Albert Crosetti, a movie geek who happened to be the first person to lay his hands on Bracegirdle¿s letter. The plot may seem complicated but even as such is easy to follow.I have to say that The Book of Air and Shadows is no ordinary mystery novel. Gruber is very skilled on many levels as a writer. He created a great, action filled chase after the treasure, enough suspense to really keep the reader guessing till the end and also managed to inject just the right amount of clever humor into the story. I think this was actually a first for me, laughing while reading a mystery. But that¿s not all. The characters of Mishkin and Crosetti are surprisingly complex and despite their many flaws I couldn¿t help but like them. Both of them were complete laymen in regards to Shakespeare, yet managed to produce a lot of enthusiasm for the legendary writer during the course of action. Which brings me to my opening point. I am not positive about it, but the book certainly made me stop and wonder if Shakespeare¿s personal life is indeed a mystery of the literary world. I will certainly do some more digging.My personal favorite parts of the book were the documents written by Bracegirdle. For a literary geek it was a lot of fun and pleasure to try and read the 17th century language. Gruber managed to make them sound like originals to the point where I actually caught myself several times thinking that I was reading things written by a Shakespeare¿s contemporary. I didn¿t even mind the deciphering parts, which were crucial to the action but to me sounded like mathematical mumbo-jumbo at first (you can tell I am no fun of mathematics) but then it turned out to be another fun and intriguing side of the novel.The Book of Air and Shadows is a fantastic read, never boring (Gruber manages to insult everything and everybody, yet because it is so fairly dispensed, I didn¿t mind) and quite educational as well. Michael Gruber is a skilled writer, with great sense of humor and I will definitely be reading more of him.
datwood on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Jake Mishkin is an intellectual property lawyer, whose friendship with English professor Mickey Haas involves him in a literary puzzle featuring William Shakespeare, the rare book trade, and a cast of thousands. This thriller is a cross between The Da Vinci Code and a Garrison Keillor monologue. There is absolutely nothing straight-forward in the telling of this story, from the plot to the integrity of the characters.
Oregonreader on LibraryThing 3 months ago
After a bookstore fire, letters are discovered written by Richard Bracegirdle, an anti-papist who claims to have spied on William Shakespeare. Also found are some encrypted pages that seem to be the clue to finding a lost play by Shakespeare. The story follows a bookstore employee and an IP lawyer and their families as they hunt for the treasure and encounter Russian and Jewish gangsters also in on the hunt. The plot contains many twists and turns and surprises. It is a very well-written story with lots of ideas. I really enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery as well as being intrigued by the characters even though not many were really likeable. The ending left a little to be desired, I had a couple of unresolved questions but it is still highly recommended.
mrtall on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The Book of Air and Shadows is compared in some reviews to The DaVinci Code, which is a bit unfair. A much better comparison is to Umberto Eco¿s far more sophisticated and enjoyable Foucault¿s Pendulum. In both cases the protagonists run themselves ragged trying to gain possession ¿ and provenance ¿ of an almost mythical McGuffin. Although Gruber is no Eco ¿ but then, who is? ¿ this is never the less a fine effort. Two (converging, of course) storylines follow our two main treasure-hunters: an intellectual property lawyer who¿s also a sex addict, and a loser bookstore clerk who¿s got more to him than initially meets the eye. Both encounter femme fatales, action sequences, and lots of heady intellectual puzzles to solve. The cast of supporting characters is fun, too, with Jewish gangsters, Polish ex-spies, beady-eyed librarians, and some nicely parodied academics.I enjoyed the first three-fourths of this book thoroughly, but it loses steam in its final quarter. You see exactly the point at which Gruber realizes he¿s got to get this thing wound up, and suddenly what should be pages-long action sequences are dispensed with in two sentences of prosy recap, the dialogue goes all expository, characters smash merrily through the boundaries of their expected behaviors, and the generally almost-plausible tone of the book descends into the silly. I¿d still recommend this one, though ¿ keep your expectations in reasonable check, and you¿ll have a good time with it.
BobNolin on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Enjoyable, though I could have done without the bigotry and overuse of sex. Perhaps Gruber is trying to add "color" with all the Italian/Jewish/Russian personalities, but all of that could have been removed and the book would be none the worse for it, in my opinion. Just saying someone is Irish or Italian doesn't tell me much, usually, and yet it's a defining characteristic for Gruber. I'm hoping this is just old-school thinking, and will pass away along with Gruber's generation. I nearly gave up on it early on during the extended descriptions of Jake's sexual addiction. We get it, he's got a problem, you've made your point...can we move on? The historical documents lent a lot of interest to the book, making it seem that much more plausible. The 16th century documents were very well done, very convincing. It became almost like a time travel story, with characters reaching across time, sort of like Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book. And like Willis, the modern day portion is, at times, a bit over the top. A reviewer on Amazon said Gruber is mixing the literary thriller genre with the potboiler, and we are to understand that is why things get so...exaggerated at times. If that's true (and it does fit), I have to say it was a little too much of an inside joke for this reader to enjoy. I'm not a metafictional kind of guy, I guess.The characters live and breathe on the page, so one has to look at how they acted, since they were so real. Let's start with Carolyn Rolly. Very hard to empathize with a woman who would abandon her children to a violent abuser. And why did she find it easier to turn to the Jewish Mafia (or the Russian Jewish...whatever) for help, than to, say, the police? So she's an immoral person, she makes bad choices, and at the end she gets rewarded. I don't think I like that. The other character that bothered me was one we spent a LOT of time with, Jake Mishkin. I would've liked this book a lot more if he had had a believable epiphany at the end. Instead, in a short, let's-get-this-book-over-with epilogue, he's suddenly kicked his sexual addiction (which the author has hammered into our heads for four hundred pages). Huh? Suddenly he "gets" what love is all about? I didn't buy it, so that was disappointing. Which brings up the question: who was this book about? Jake? Al? Richard Bracegirdle? Looking back now, I'm thinking this book may have been much better had the Jake point of view been removed completely, replaced by a third-person chapter here and there. His chapters don't advance the plot much, when you think about it. They compel you to keep reading, I suppose, to find out why he's sitting in a lakeside cottage waiting to be killed. The story really has little to do with this very unsympathetic guy, and yet we get hundreds of pages of his first-person thoughts. He's a yucky guy. Did we really need him? Maybe, if he'd performed some selfless act and earned redemption. Instead, what? He keeps his money. He gets his wife back (probably). I can't help thinking this could have made been made much better. Gruber says (on his website) that the plot came to him while meeting with an IP (intellectual property) lawyer. The plot, naturally, came to include said IP lawyer. Perhaps a step back would have revealed that the IP lawyer was really a minor character. Overall, an interesting read, but more for plot and not so much for the characters, who were unlikable (mostly), and didn't follow the rules for good, moral fiction. (see John Gardner)
keywestnan on LibraryThing 3 months ago
In the world of biblio-thrillers -- like Ex-Libris by Ross King and The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte -- this book is a standout. Great writing, great characters, nifty plot. It even pulls off the antique document passages. I'd say something insulting about The Da Vinci Code except that maybe that book's popularity helped clear the way for this one, in which case it is possibly almost worth it.
5hrdrive on LibraryThing 3 months ago
An antique bookshop, a lost play by William Shakespeare, forgers, spies, secret codes, a treasure hunt, double-crossings, a femme-fatale, and a humdinger of a show-down between the bad guys and the not-quite good guys at the end? Sign me up! This was a very pleasant surprise for a book that I found for seventy-five cents at my local library's book sale.
Moriquen on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I'm afraid that this book was a bit of a disappointement to me. Even though 'on paper' it seemed to hold all of my favourite things to read about. Shakespeare, an old mysterious manuscript, the treasure hunt, the different characters and different stories that all came together in the end. But there were many things that bugged me about this book. This book could have been much better if it had been about half its current size. I don't mind large books if they have something to say, but most of the rambling seemed to be a character sketch of Jake Mishkin. And after a while you really get tired of his ramblings about how deprived he really is and how many women he slept with.The other main character Crosetti is also not entirely likeable. With his constant talk about the movies ... He makes you feel like you've seen this book before in movie form, but were to stupid to remember it. (The way he constantly keeps predicting what is going to happen, because it's all happened before in the movies.)I did like the ending however and wished that the entire book had the speed and the momentum of the last chapters, but sadly it doesn't. I really thought this would be my kind of book, but it turned out completely different.
cameling on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I found this really boring
benjclark on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Unknown Shakespeare play and intrigue! Present Day New York! Rich people! Film nerd! Nazis! Jews! Jewish Nazis! Super Models! If you don't like sex in your books, stay away. Writing was good, story was decent. The Biblio-ness was also OK. Got a shade too strung out to remain suspenseful for me, or remain a mystery. I liked the Shakespeare storyline-- some of those chapters were the most interesting ones. The "main" character, Jake Mishkin, is too ridiculous for words. Upon reflection 3 stars may be a bit generous.
kerns222 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Still trying to figure out how Gruber plotted out this thing. The plot has 4 layers with a lot of glue in between: Layer one--Hiding in the mountain cabin and waiting for the mobsters to kill the lawyer, Layer 2--Waiting for the ex-smuggler and cannon maker to die after spying on Shakespeare for the Puritans and later getting shot during the English Civil War, Layer 3--the kid accountant in the NY bookstore finding the secret manuscript, Layer 4--the lawyer telling how he got involved and why he is unfaithful to his perfect Swiss wife and does power lifting. And dont forget his Nazi mother and Jewish mobster moneyman dad hiding in Israel working/toying with the Russian Jewish mobsters in New York. And yes the mystery woman/women who drag the lawyer and the kid accountant through hoops. Way too much unless you really pay attention. Also, a couple extras: secret codes to work on if you have spare brain cells after tracking the plot for two hundred pages and , a bonus, some neat techniques for saving old books.
Gary10 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Basic plot line is that a couple of poor employees at a book binding operation stumble upon a 17th century manuscript that purports to not only provide a wealth of background information on William Shakespeare, but also suggests that a previously unknown play written by Shakespeare may exist. The employees quickly get enmeshed in an increasingly complicated, and dangerous race to get access to what would be--if actually found--the most valuable piece of literature in the world. Along the way there is of course murder, mayhem and even a romance.
jpsnow on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. It revolves around an unlikely character, an IP lawyer, who is a former olympic weightlifter. The tale mixes action with history, including a series of letters in Jacobean English. If you like Dan Brown but also prefer something on the classical side, this is a recommended read.