I didn’t pick this book up because it was on the New York Times Bestseller’s list.
I picked it up because in search of picnic reading, I was walking around a local bookstore willing something to jump out at me and take me off of my rotation of the same writers, and this book did. Encouraged by USA Today’s assertion that the book was “Breathtakingly engaging… brilliant… Few [thrillers] will surpass The Book of Air and Shadows when it comes to energetic writing, compellingly flawed characters, literary scholarship, and mathematical conundrums. Air and Shadows is also incredibly smart… unpredictable… We never had this much fun reading the Da Vinci Code”, I grabbed the book and headed for the river.
Sure enough, this book is considerably more thrilling than The Da Vinci Code. At over 460 pages, it reads something like a cross between James Bond (the new ones) and Shakespeare for Dummies: easy but engaging. (I know, some of you are saying easy is engaging. Stay with me, here. The plot-line is tiered, and requires your attention.)
Opening scene: A bodybuilding IP (Intellectual Property) attorney (Mishkin) is in hiding, waiting for the mob to come and get him. He begins writing a letter to his estranged family to pass the time.
Now, rewind. Albert Crosetti is middle-age-ish and working at a bookshop. He loves greasy food and old movies, and he lives in his mother’s basement. He spends his spare time obsessing over another bookstore employee: Carolyn Rolly. Lucky for him, there’s a fire in the shop. This means he gets to spend a night at her place (an abandoned warehouse), helping her try to restore a valuable book for unlawful gain. In this classically bohemian evening, they find a surprising series of pages padding the covers of the book. Pages that might possibly lead to the discovery of a heretofore unknown Shakespeare manuscript.
Crosetti begins investigatng, but compromises on selling a letter to a previously dethroned Shakespeare expert, who, then being chased by mysterious and dangerous men, carries his discovery to Mishkin (the attorney). The circle isn’t complete with this, but I won’t confuse you with further details from this point.