The Book of Air and Shadows is my Kewaunee Library book club book for the month of August. The best thing about this book is it's nice title.
The book started off with an intriguing enough premise - it tells the story of a "hidden treasure," which in this case is a hidden previously unknown Shakespeare manuscript written entirely in his hand. Through three different narrators we learn the tale. This book is billed as the "thinking man's" Da Vinci Code, but I found it far inferior to The Da Vinci Code.
First of all, this book started out with one of the worst opening chapters I have ever read. It was disjointed and almost incoherent at times. As the narrations started, I found myself liking Crosetti (a book store employee that dreams of becoming a director) and Bracegridle (a 17th century adventurer that was involved with a plot to spy on Shakespeare to see if he was a "Papist."). I intensely disliked Mishkin, who was also the narrator of the first chapter. For at least the first quarter of the book, Miskin talks about his sexual conquests and sadness about how he has the perfect wife, but can't be faithful. I am no prude (I love romance novels), but I really didn't care for the details, especially when they are boring. It did not advance the plot at all and made me intensely dislike the "hero." The only thing that kept me reading it was that it was a book club pick.
The action picked up after the first 100 or 150 pages, and I might have then given the book a fairly good review if it wouldn't have had a trainwreck of an ending. The ending was very unsatisfactory. It was very rushed (after being so slow and boring at the beginning, it seems like Gruber could have taken the time to write a decent ending!) and very implausible. I was very disappointed.
On a positive note, some of the 2nd tier characters were great. I especially liked Mary Peg, Crosetti's mother and also the romance between Carolyn and Crosetti. If Gruber would have based the story on Crosetti as the hero, left out Miskin, and had a better beginning and end, it could have been a good novel.
Also note to Gruber, I realize you are a writer and not a mathematician, but you should check some of your numbers. You talk about how Mishkin is millionare rich from being a lawyer, yet you say he bills out at $75/hr and works 2000 hours a year. This would make him earn $150,000 per year if he doesn't have to give any of his billing to his law firm. He pays $50,ooo if it a year for a private car and driver and $28,500 per year per kid for two kids to attend private school. This would leave him with only $43,000 / year to pay for his expensive New York City loft, let alone taxes, etc. Don't give figures if you haven't checked them - it just looks sloppy, especially in a "Thinking Man's" novel.
In short, I do not recommend this book to anyone unless they want to be bored.