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The Book of Air and Shadows: A Novel

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  7,939 Ratings  ·  1,148 Reviews
A fire destroys a New York City rare bookstore—and reveals clues to a treasure worth killing for. . . . A disgraced scholar is found tortured to death. . . . And those pursuing the most valuable literary find in history are about to cross from the harmless mundane into inescapable nightmare.

From the acclaimed, bestselling author of Tropic of Night comes a breathtaking thri
ebook, 496 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Apr 13, 2008 Heidi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This COULD have been an amazing book. If only the author had just stuck to his very interesting plot, instead of continually sharing pointless details and side stories about the characters. The main story was fascinating: Letters leading to a secret cipher that when cracked would lead to a hidden, and previously unread Shakespeare play. But for some reason the author could not seem to stay with this story. He seemed more interested in telling the story of the sexual pursuits of his various unlik ...more
Dec 06, 2007 Donald rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not many people
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I usually try to give each book the first one hundred pages before deciding to quit. If it hasn't hooked me by then, it's doubtful it'll hook me any time soon. I gave this book the first forty pages and gave up. It's almost mind-numbingly boring. Written in first-person, so we know the narrator makes it through whatever it is that's coming up, there is no hook early on to make me want to keep reading. The narrator rambles on about things not connected to the main lost-manuscript-of-Shakespeare p ...more
Jul 30, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a very enjoyable, but deeply flawed book...

flawed, because the gratuitous and largely pointless sexual content of this book almost causes it to a matter of fact, if you look at the majority of the reviews here and on amazon, many a reader could not get past it...
enjoyable, because the erudition and imagination that went into its creation are absolutely superlative...
the literary treasure hunt of the main characters and the prize itself are both filled with intellectual verisimilitud
Aug 12, 2007 Caroline rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished, thriller
I really wanted to give this one a chance, but it was so bogged down in meaningless details that very little happened within the first 100 pages. The style of writing is very meandering, so much that it detracts from the plot. Which is a shame, because the premise of the book sounded very interesting, but in the end it was just too dull for me to be able to get through. For me, it spent way too much time dwelling on the family of the characters rather than establishing a plot.
Feb 28, 2008 Lola rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just dragged myself through the first chapter and i'm already questioning whether i should continue reading. Its just not fascinating me. In addition i hate the writing style. For someone like me who loves proper punctuating, this guy uses a million commas, in all the right places, but still its driving me nuts.

OK! and thats the end of that. I just finished the third chapter and almost cried at the idea of venturing on to the fourth. The main narrator just rambles on page after page, comma after
Aug 12, 2007 Sadie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book seemingly has it all- Russian/Jewish mobsters, Shakespeare scholars, lying women, Jesuit priest/thug, intelligent and sassy middle aged women (wait, can anyone over the age of 25 be considered sassy?), ciphers, several conspiracty theories some twists and turns and a big finish. What it doesn't have is that undefinable quality that distinguishes it from all the other dime a dozen conspiracy books. The writing is adequate though not compelling which is why I can't rank it more than two ...more
Griffin Betz
Shakespeare, Russian gangsters, cyphers, antique books, sex and the English Civil War - what's not to like?

Well, nothing really. Of course there wasn't much that I found that I actually liked either. Actually that's a bit unfair to The Book of Air and Shadows. It's not as if I was bored by the book, it just sat on my bedside table for two months, half finished and ignored in favor of other books. I always intended to finish it. I was never so disgusted that I put it down with the intention of n
Apr 09, 2008 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book because it's written in several different voices; in fact I almost quit reading it because the first narrator's voice was super casual and seemed like a mindless pop fiction. but don't let it fool you. The style picked up and entertained me as soon as the other narrator emerged. It contains movie references -- which was fun for cultural references, and I loved deciperhing the allulsions. The book has been compared to DaVinci Code, but only because it's a suspense thriller, cros ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 23, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contrary to what you may have heard, the life of a book reviewer is not unending adventure. It's lots of speed-reading and sitting around in your bathrobe, trying to finish the next review while scouring the cupboard for more chocolate chips and wondering if that mole on your shoulder is looking weirder. Oh sure, "There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away," but give me a frigate break; sometimes you wouldn't mind a few thrills.

Which may be why I'm such a sucker for this relatively n
Seizure Romero
Oct 19, 2008 Seizure Romero rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, arc
My biggest problem with this book is the narrator's voice. Maybe I should say voices, because there are two. The first is in first person and as he tells his story he becomes more and more irritating due to his almost complete self-absorption, and I feel that the focus on his incessant and often pointless yammering detracts from the story itself. The second is a third person narrator. Having a first person narrator and a third person narrator in the same story irritates the crap out of me. Pick ...more
Sep 06, 2007 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all
What a fascinating story Gruber has constructed. There is a manuscript from the 1600's used as padding in the covers of an old map portfolio found by the geeky book shop young man; the story of the bookshop man; the story of a lawyer who received the manuscript from a client and the client then was murdered for it; and multiple other storylines. The gist is there might be an unpublished Shakespeare play buried in England, written in his own hand. Since none of Shakespeare’s plays were even signe ...more
I'm kind of split on this book; with three different storylines, that's not a difficult place to be.

Crosetti is by far the most enjoyable, but by the end it was annoying how he constantly described film cliches in the thriller genre, only to have the events play out exactly as he said. He explains his idea that life imitates film, not the other way around, and I suppose this is the author's way of illustrating that point, but--come ON. I don't read these kinds of books because I can guess the e
Feb 16, 2009 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Book of Air and Shadows falls into that curious genre known as the "literary thriller" - curious because most thrillers mostly contain poor to middling writing (read: Dan Brown) and focus almost solely on plot, and much less on character development or other things that you find in books that carry the "literature" label.

Since I am a fan of more literary works (yes, I am pretentious that way) but still enjoy a good plot every now and then, books like this one appeal to me a lot and I thoroug
A rather thrilling story about the discovery of a letter that proves not only Shakespeare's existence but also the existence of another, previously unknown, play. The best part of the book is how the author told the story from alternating viewpoints - one as events are happening and one from the first-person perspective of one of the characters. There is ALOT of back story about who these two main characters are as a way to explain why they do what they do, although I don't know that it is so co ...more
Apr 21, 2008 Blaire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Were it not for a couple of flaws, I might have given this book 5 stars. I liked the premise and the way the plot was developed; there were a couple of surprises along the way, which is always nice. One enjoyable aspect of the book was the occasional acute observation on the part of the author. These were usually apropos of nothing; just an unexpected bonus that I found striking and something that makes the book more than a standard thriller. My principal complaints have to do with the climax of ...more
Jillian Benavidez
May 31, 2007 Jillian Benavidez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this book because it was a fictional mystery surrounding one of my all-time favorite writers, William Shakespeare.

Got halfway through this book. I ended up so bored with it that I just decided to not finish, which isn't something I do easily. I hate not finishing a book, but this one is just...poorly written. The characters are nothing great, most are not even believable and have a very base personality, the setting is rather dull and stupid, and overall the story is rather predictable
Sep 13, 2011 Morgannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book starts out with an abundance of backstory about what a new Shakespeare manuscript would mean to the world. How much would it be worth? Before long the race is on for who gets it first, the good guys or the bad guys? Seems innocent, then somebody dies suspiciously and we learn just how far the bad guys are willing to go.

The first interesting bit is that none of the characters are really all that into Shakespeare. Sure, there are a few token Shakespeare experts thrown in, but they are mi
Jonah Gibson
May 02, 2014 Jonah Gibson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fabulous book - wildly inventive, compelling, deeply personal, and smart as hell. For starters you will learn more than you thought you wanted to know about bookbinding, Shakespearean scholarship, and secret ciphers. The education itself is worth more than the price of entry. Gruber has done a mind-numbing amount of research to make these topics interesting and accessible to his readers. Reading this won't be easy going. You are going to have to think, but you will be rewarded in the e ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one sat around staring at me for quite some weeks, but its girth and the absolutely bipolar love hate reviews have been holding me back. Alas, I finally tackled it and I'm glad I did, it was a lot of fun and moved along very nicely for a book its size. I neither loved nor hated it, although for a significant while at first it was closer to love. I'm always looking for the next Shadow of The Wind, adore books about books and all things to do with Shakespeare. Gruber is no Carlos Ruiz Zafon, ...more
Feb 16, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting concept for a book, but not the storyline was not interesting enough to keep me glued to it. I think I would have lost interest and the will to finish it, if it weren't our book club selection for the month of April...and I didn't have 8 hours of travel via plane to kill. The letters that are interspersed throughout the book were difficult to read, and so I started by-passing those completely very early on. It did not seem to impact my understanding of what was taking place. I did th ...more
Mar 17, 2008 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not enjoy reading this book. I continued to try to read it because I was on vacation and I was desperate for reading material. I never had any feelings for any of the characters. The main character seemed to be an egotistical womanizer, which was not appealing, to say the least. Perhaps starting the narrative in first person should have been a giveaway. I finally stopped reading when I had access to English books at an airport terminal and bought a new one.
Sep 04, 2011 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scaling this book is akin to reading three different fictions at once. Lawyer Jake Mishkin narrates his own current-day personal, professional, and purloining exploits. We are apprised of the dealing and dodging of bookstore clerk Albert Cosetti. Interspersed within the two tales are the letters of Richard Bracegirdle, a 17th Century ironsmith turned accountant, turned spy on William Shakespeare.

Each element sets a pace toward a collision. Mishkin, a New York intellectual property attorney, beco
Nov 25, 2013 Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, well-researched, masterfully crafted Shakespeare pseudo-history. Silly, overly complicated, implausible, downright infuriating potboiler whodunnit plot - but there's a method to this madness.

Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows bears a lot of similarities to Dan Brown's literate mysteries. It's a rare-book scandal unraveled by following a skein of coded messages. In this case, the messages are 17th-century cryptography. The author seems to have a firm grasp on this arcane stuff, but
Stephen Hayes
When I started reading this book I didn't think I'd like it, and wrote some initial thoughts on my blog, here The book of air and shadows | Khanya. But it seemed to improve as it went along, and in the end I rather enjoyed it.

In a way it reminded me of The de Vinci Code in that the characters go running around in search of a myterious artifact, pursued by shadow villains, with secret ciphers that need to be solved. But The book of air ans shadows seems to be better written, and the plot holes a
Jul 20, 2011 AliceinWonderland rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is based upon a fictional account of discovering one of Shakespeare’s lost plays about the Queen of Scots.
It thrusts its’ main characters into a world of literary intrigue and adventure, complete with your typical Russian gangsters, ciphers in ancient cryptology, and double-crossing spies!

The main characters are an IP lawyer, Jake Mishkin, and a film school wannabe, Albert Crosetti. Although Gruber does a good job at propelling seemingly ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-away
Let's get right to it: who would like this book? I'm a sucker for bibliomysteries, and others who like them would enjoy this. If you like codes & cyphers, you'd like this one as well. If you enjoy a good mystery, you'll like this one, too.

The story is told from different narrators: first, there is the main character, Jake Mishkin, who is an attorney specializing in intellectual property. Second is Albert Crosetti, who wants to go to film school, and sees life and civilization as we know it a
To sum up my impressions of this book into one word: tedious. I wanted to abandon it by page 50; had to repeatedly push myself to pick it up again and continue reading. I expect a best-seller to fascinate, compel and to alter my perspective, but this did not. There are plenty of English historical references, details of book-binder's craft and challenges of authenticating a manuscript, also political intrigues, historical as well as within academia and the world of gangsters.

The book follows 3 p
Molly Jo
Aug 10, 2010 Molly Jo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think of this as The DaVinci Code but revolving around a previously unknown Shakespeare manuscript. In Shakespeare's own hand, which if true, would be unreal and amazing.

This was the first Michael Gruber novel I've read, and I'm in love. I can't wait to go pick up The Forgery of Venus. The writing was fantastic and I loved the conclusion. My only complaint was that it took me a little while to get into the story. It took me awhile to acclimate with his writing style and the pattern of narration.
Jan 10, 2016 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Conservatively, The Book of Air and Shadows is about a hundred pages too long. My personal opinion is that it needed to shed closer to 40 percent of its length (it clocks in at 560 pages)to make for an interesting, riveting read.

Billed as a thriller involving a potentially lost play by Shakespeare, The Book of Air and Shadows is so bogged down by asides and tangents and unnecessary details that any building excitement is usually quashed within a dozen pages. When I pick up a thriller, it’s becau
The concept of this book intrigued me, but in actuality I found the story to be...just boring. I couldn't make it past the first forty pages. It's written in the first person style, the idea being that the main character (a lawyer) is chronicling the events that led up to him hiding out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, in fear for his life. It sounds suspenseful and exciting, no? No. It's not. For someone who is desperate to tell his story before someone offs him, he certainly takes plenty o ...more
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Literary thriller 2 58 Jul 07, 2008 10:00AM  
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  • Complication
  • The Library of Shadows
  • The Anatomy of Deception
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  • The Secret of Lost Things
  • The Bestiary
  • The Minutes of the Lazarus Club
  • The Sign of the Book (Cliff Janeway, #4)
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  • The Mosaic Crimes (Dante Alighieri, #2)
  • The Rose Labyrinth
  • The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History's Greatest Mystery Revealed
  • The Dracula Dossier
  • The Rosetta Key (Ethan Gage, #2)
  • The Meaning of Night
  • The Dream of Scipio
Michael Gruber is an author living in Seattle, Washington. He attended Columbia University and received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Miami. He worked as a cook, a marine biologist, a speech writer, a policy advisor for the Jimmy Carter White House, and a bureaucrat for the EPA before becoming a novelist.

He is generally acknowledged to be the ghostwriter of the popular Robert K. Tane
More about Michael Gruber...

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“Professors go batty too, perhaps more often than other people, although owing to their profession, their madness is less often remarked. ” 14 likes
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