The Book of Air and ShadowsOctober 19, 2007
The Book of Air and Shadows
pub. William Morrow, 480pp
This literary thriller tells the story of several characters and their involvement with a discovered manuscript purportedly revealing the existence and location of a hitherto unknown Shakespeare play. The principal narrator is a wealthy IP lawyer, Jake Mishkin, who also happens to be a heavyweight lifter and something of a philanderer. While his attitude toward women was initially off-putting, the character harkens back to the noire detectives of yesteryear, albeit with a modern awareness of his flaws, and he truly grew on me.
The story grows convoluted in a good way with multi-layered lies, cons, double crosses, Russian and Israeli gangsters, kidnapping, bookbinding, 17th century espionage, love both fulfilled and unrequited, classic movies, and of course a good chase at the end all thrown in.
I think what sold me though, was the book’s mix of genres. It is at times a thriller, at times historical, but always literary and even literate. Yes, this publishing trend to capitalize on the success of The DaVinci Code -which, I might add, cannot hold a candle to the best of them all, Eco’s The Name of the Rose – has produced many not-so-good books. However, Gruber, the author, uses a the device of switching narrators -there are two modern narrators as well as the original 17th century manuscript – and thereby genres, to keeps thing interesting and provide several different points of view of the same set of events. While there are a few places where this causes the narrative to loop back on itself a bit chronologically – something I found inconsistent and a bit distracting – for the most part it is handled quite well and the book has a good pace.
While, ultimately, I enjoyed the book a great deal, I was disappointed by the ending as I found it a bit quick and almost anti-climactic. However, if you look at it as being about the ride and not the destination, this was definitely a nice piece of entertainment. Nothing earth-shattering, but a good way to pass some time.