Tuesday, June 17, 2008

THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS by Michael Gruber

If you need something to pack in your luggage for that Caribbean cruise or a north woods cabin, you might want to sample Michael Gruber's mystery-thriller The Book of Air and Shadows. It features Shakespeare (as you might imagine from the title), but with more of a Da Vinci Code twist. The story line centers on the existence of a lost play (about Mary Queen of Scots) written by William Shakespeare. When letters from a 17th century soldier turn up as stuffing in the end covers of an old set of sea faring histories, there is a mild stir in the rare book industry. Then it is discovered that the soldier may have been a spy and his target was Shakespeare and the rumored lost play. That sets off a firestorm of searching and greed. Critical information on the lost work is coded and soon you have a manuscript dealer's employees, a quick tempered intellectual property lawyer and his family, scholars on both sides of the Atlantic, cryptographers, and mysterious groups of Russian and Israeli gangsters all vying to see who can "crack the code", and find the prize.

Gruber has more than enough romance and tantalizing discussion of espionage and ciphers to keep your mind engaged plus an action packed narrative filled with murder, mysterious disappearances, kidnappings, car chases, and plain old fisticuffs. It is a nice combination and if you are looking for something a touch theatrical and a bit more than a sandy beach throwaway, The Book of Air and Shadows may be an ideal choice for a reader for the summer. For copies check your local library or bookstore.

A sideline that has nothing to do with books is that once again the intelligence of computer search engines when exposed to irony has been exploded. I noted this morning as I was writing this issue of Stirring the Pudding that one of the google ads running on the sidebar was for Jello.

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