Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Book of Air and Shadows

I'm slightly behind schedule in my goal to read a book a week in 2014, but I'm optimistic I'll catch up and not because I'll be choosing short books. My current selection is 830 pages.

Earlier this week I finished The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber. I picked up this novel for $1 at my local library's book sale a few months ago.

The plot is rather intricate and involves a possible lost Shakespeare play, Oxford dons, librarians and Russian mobsters. The story is told from the points of view of its two primary characters: Jake Mishkin, a rakish intellectual property rights lawyer who narrates in the first person, and Albert Crosetti, a nice guy computer geek who dreams of going to film school and relates to all events as if they are happening in a movie. Crosetti has an intriguing theory that movies and television influence real world behavior. We may think what we see on the screen reflects our life, he says, but actually our lives are reflecting what we've seen on the screen. For example, police officers have watched enough episodes of "Law and Order" to understand the behavior the citizenry expects of them and they adjust accordingly. Such is his theory.

If this book were made into a big-budget film, the role of Mishkin would go to a marquee actor, perhaps Ben Affleck, and Crosetti - the real star - would be a breakout role for a young talent. Meaty supporting roles are plentiful, with a beautiful ingenue taking third billing as damsel-in-distress/possible-villainess Carolyn, and familiar movie faces would portray Mary Peg, Klim, Amelie, Miriam, Paul and Haas. There's even a cameo for Robert De Niro near the end.

But back to the story. Gruber writes intelligently and elegantly. In the suspense thriller genre, I would categorize this novel as much more intellectually demanding than The Da Vinci Code but less erudite and more accessible than Foucault's Pendulum. It's not quite a lose-sleep-over-it-page-turner, but it's engaging with an almost believable plot and diverse, fleshed out characters. The ending is a bit confusing, with regards to Carolyn and Haas anyway, and doesn't neatly tie up all loose ends, which could be disappointing to some readers.

As this is ostensibly a knitting blog, I must make an effort to link the book to the fiber arts. Well, some of the scenes take place in England, and good yarns happen there, and if I could knit and read at the same time, I would probably choose a pattern from Alice Starmore's classic Tudor Roses to accompany this fine novel.

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