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The Book of Air and Shadows: A Novelby Michael Gruber
Synopses & Reviews
A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured to death...
A lost manuscript and its secrets buried for centuries...
An encrypted map that leads to incalculable wealth...
The Washington Post called Michael Gruber's previous work "a miracle of intelligent fiction and among the essential novels of recent years." Now comes his most intellectually provocative and compulsively readable novel yet.
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The plot summary...might seem like yet another rubbing of the grail were it not for Gruber's intelligence and engaging style....Gruber deftly raises the thriller stakes and accelerates the plot while still creating convincing personal journeys for his characters." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A] fast-moving and often hilarious tale about the usually torpid worlds of rare books and academia....A wonderful story with absolutely superb casting." Kirkus Reviews
"[F]ew [thrillers] will surpass The Book of Air and Shadows when it comes to energetic writing, compellingly flawed characters, literary scholarship, mathematical conundrums and that oh-so-necessary dose of comic relief." USA Today
"The end result is more ambitious and thoughtful than most potboilers....But The Book of Air and Shadows can't quite shake off its own cleverness....
"[F]earless, intricate and intelligent....So what does Gruber's book have that something like The Da Vinci Code lacks? Well, stylish and confident prose, for starters....Gruber keeps the various juggling balls of his provocative tale high in the air." Seattle Times
"Gruber is a master of his material. He sidesteps the obvious risks with disparate plot lines, and his remain unmuddied and ultimately join together naturally." Denver Post
"Michael Gruber pulls out all the stops as an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse ensues....Keeping track of the convolutions gets maddening, but the payoff just about makes the effort worth it." Newsday
"[R]eaders will be fascinated by the book's 16th-century subplot, full of 'weighty matteres of faith & politicks,' bawdy pun-fests and other glimpses of the man Shakespeare may have been." Dallas Morning News
Hidden in the binding of a charred and ruined book is a cache of letters. They are encrypted and the key to unlocking the mysterious code has been lost for 400 years. If the letters are read, they will lead to one of the most valuable items in the history of the world.
About the Author
Michael Gruber has been a marine biologist, a restaurant cook, a federal government official, and a political speechwriter. He lives in Seattle, Washington, and is currently at work on another novel.
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