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The Book of Air and Shadows

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  8,514 ratings  ·  1,204 reviews
An intellectual property lawyer is 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 with a fire in an antiquarian bookstore.

A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured
Hardcover, 466 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by William Morrow
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3.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,514 ratings  ·  1,204 reviews

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Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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.
Ron Charles
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 28, 2008 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 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, usa, unfinished
I gave up. Endless sidetracking, heaps of information, no clear storyline and most of all very boring. This book made me wonder if it was edited at all. Also, i did not really like the main character that starts out telling the story. A very annoying, self-absorbed and egocentric lawyer. In the end i remembered my resolution: life's too short to read bad books. Such a pity. I really do love books about mysterious books.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Griffin Betz
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-fiction
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 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Seizure Romero
Oct 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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 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
Jonah Gibson
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 03, 2014 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, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Jillian Benavidez
May 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a difficult book to review because it has so much going on. Initially I found it very engaging. An intellectual property lawyer, Jake Mishkin, gets a 17th century document to guard. It is a narrative by a man named Bracegirdle. These are a series of letters to his wife relating his life and in particular his role as a spy meant to keep an eye on the Catholic William Shakespeare. The letter was discovered by a film nerd, Albert Crosetti, working in a rare book store, along with an enigmat ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is getting a lot of negative reviews, and I can see why. If you are looking for a thriller ( and this is how it was advertised - literary thriller) then you should probably look elsewhere. This is not a typical brain candy with the easy bad guy, plus your average good guy who saves the world or a country or a city or a family - no, this is definitely not that kind of the book.
If you are looking for a straightforward plot that has a roller coaster speed, yet again, do not attempt this
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
The book of air and shadows, could not have a better title because, really, the feeling that I had after reading it is of inconsistency, almost 600 pages where more than half is air and the rest is a constant race chasing shadows.
I had a hard time not quitting it because I had 200 pages read and nothing interesting had happened yet. The letters, I started reading them but they were so boring that I ended up skipping them. It has good details but the characters, especially Jake, ramble too much w
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
As a result of a fire in a used bookstore, the employees discover the letters of a man who spied on Shakespeare and clues to the presence of a long lost play. Or is the whole thing a hoax.

Initially difficult to read because of its multiple voice, the book does become engaging and engrossing even while its characters remain somewhat cardboard. But that seems to have been Gruber intention since it is written very much like a hard-boiled detective novel.

As an additional joy, Goodreads provided me
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
Karen Jaunarajs
Mar 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
Ugh...the writing was not for me--sexually graphic and the narrator was a jerk. I couldn't get past it. I made it 100 pages in with my eyes closed for most of the writing.
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Literary thriller 2 60 Jul 07, 2008 10:00AM  

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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
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