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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber. New York: William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers), 2007. ISBN: 978-0-06-087446-9

Here's another great read for all you book lovers, who enjoy books about books, or books with literary themes, especially if they include a good mystery, and a little suspense thrown in for good measure. Here we have the ultimate literary prize at stake, a totally unknown play by William Shakespeare!

Our primary protagonist is a copyright lawyer, who seemingly ought to be a dull pedant of a fellow, who nonetheless gets caught up in a veritable conspiracy of mysteries. The other person we frequently follow through the story is Albert Crosetti, a would-be film maker working as a clerk in a rare books bookstore, primarily because of his computer abilities, which keep him busy running the online portion of the business, necessary in these contemporary times.

Crosetti is young, just out of college, and his hormones sometimes lead him astray, as when he gets tangled up with the upstairs clerk, an only slightly older, somewhat attractive woman who is involved in a scam, after a fire in the shop. He is helping her restore a rare six volume set of John Churchill's Collection of Voyages and Travels (1732 edition), so that she can sell it to a third party on the sly, instead of breaking it up and selling off the maps and illustrations, as their boss has told her to do, after it was damaged in the fire.

Inside the end papers, they find an old manuscript, along with some other papers, that set the stage for everything that follows. For the papers are from a man who knew Shakespeare personally, and apparently (if the papers are for real, and not an elaborate hoax or forgery) commissioned him to write a play, which they then hid. An elaborate cypher is naturally involved, not to mention a bunch of Russian mafia types, who are determined to horn in on the action. The play, if it really exists, is undoubtedly worth literally hundreds of millions.

If this isn't enough to hook you on the story, just take my word for it. It's so well written that you'll be sucked in before you finish the first few pages. I haven't read anything else by this author, but I suppose I ought to, if this book is any indication of his usual style and abilities.

My only complaint is that the plot has just a few too many twists and turns, and some of them do strain and stretch my sense of disbelief. I mean, the whole thing just HAS to be a hoax, right? There is no new Shakespeare play to find, after all. Not in real life, anyhow. A month from now, I probably won't remember which plot twists were for real, and which were fake, but like I said at the get go, it was a great read, while it lasted. Definitely recommended.

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