Hemning Sternberg (moonshadow) wrote,
Hemning Sternberg

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

This was 2007's second Shakespearean thriller, along with Interred With Their Bones.

- Both books feature the search for a previously unknown Shakespearean manuscript in the modern era.
- In IWTB, Shakespeare wrote an additional play after being shipwrecked in the New World. In TBoAaS, he is encouraged to write a treasonous play as part of a plot against him.
- In IWTB, the main character is a single, attractive actress whose murdered friend was a Shakespeare scholar. In TBoAaS, the main character is an IP lawyer. (That totally makes sense to me. I mean, if you found a Shakespeare manuscript, isn't that one of the first calls you would make?)
- In IWTB, several people are killed based on deaths in Shakespeare plays. In TBoAaS, people are killed for money, trying to get the manuscript.
- IWTB assumes a great deal of knowledge of WS, which the main character has. TBoAaS does not, as the main character's knowledge of WS is more similar to your average guy on the street.

You can probably tell by now, but overall I found TBoAaS to be a much stronger work - it seemed more grounded and less fanciful.

Jake Mishkin is not a very nice man. He can't stop chasing tail to save his marriage. And when a valuable manuscript comes into his posession, he may not even be able to stop chasing tail to save his own life.
Albert Crosetti has two loves - the cinema, and the other employee of the bookstore where he works, a beautiful but mysterious woman named Carolyn. He's a stand-up guy, but he's still living with his mom and hasn't had a date in... well, actually he's never had a date.
A long-dead soldier named Richard Bracegirdle may hold the key to a treasure that could make both of them rich forever, and his last letter has come into their hands. But the only other person who knew about this has been found tortured to death. Who are the bad guys? Who is hiding secrets? And does the treasure even exist?

"..in point of fact we have virtually no real memories. We make it all up. Proust made it up, Boswell made it up, Pepys... I have actually a great deal of sympathy for the increasingly common sort of person, often one with a high position, who is caught fabricating. You mean I didn't go to Harvard Med School? I did not have sex with that woman.... It's not that collapse of morality (for I think there has never been truth based on memory) but rather the triumph of intellectual property, that blizzard of invented realities-- artificial lives, Photoshopped photos, ghosted novels, lip-synched rock bands, fabricated reality shows, American foreign policy-- through which we daily slog. Everyone, from the president on down, is a novelist now.
I supposed we can blame Shakespeare himself for starting it, because he made up people who were more real, though false, than the people one knew." p 91

This book is riveting. I also found the sequence of events plausible, and the characters very human. The manuscript passages are believable as well (and Dick Bracegirdle isn't any nicer than Jake Mishkin, and he's a lot less smart to boot). Overall I found this a very enjoyable read, and recommend it to fans of Shakespeare, historical novels, and The Da Vinci Code. Four stars.
Tags: books 2008, fiction
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