I came to this book with high expectations based on the deserved reputation of the senior author, and I hoped it would serve as a worthy replacement for Christopher Walsh's excellent book of the same name, published by W. H. Freeman in 1979 and now almost 30 years old. However, I have found it hard to raise much enthusiasm for it. It includes detailed information about the organic reaction mechanisms of many enzyme-catalysed reactions, and it will be valuable as a reference work for years to come, but the text rarely comes alive, so it is unlikely to be perceived by students assigned it as a text on reaction mechanisms as other than a hard grind.
The obvious point of comparison is with Walsh's book, but despite the years that have passed the new book does not come well out of the comparison. If we take the coenzyme pyridoxal phosphate as an example, Walsh points out early in his chapter why we should want to know about it: "the role of pyridoxal-P is to stabilize carbanion intermediates that develop during enzymatic catalysis." Similarly, before entering into detail about the mechanism of reactions that use thiamine pyrophosphate as coenzyme he describes the fundamental problem of decarboxylation in mild conditions, the need for a coenzyme that can stabilize an alpha-keto-acid by supplying an electron sink. This sort of information is not exactly missing from Frey and Hageman's book, but you have to hunt for it, something the student only half-interested in the subject is not very likely to do.
Although the new book is, of course, more up-to-date, this advantage is not as great as one might have anticipated, and a surprising proportion of the references are quite old. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it does mean that the subject is not one that has been advancing at a frenetic pace -- it would not be easy to imagine a new book on molecular biology, for example, for which about a third of the references were to work published before 1990. Of the chapter on the kinetics of enzyme-catalysed reactions (Chapter 2) perhaps the least said the better. The first half says almost nothing that was not said better by W. W. Cleland in 1963. Then follows a useful discussion of isotope effects (which is much better), and the chapter concludes with an astonishingly outdated account of enzyme regulation, again saying little that could not have been said in the 1960s. It could be argued that a book of this kind hardly needs to cover most of these topics at all, and not much would have been lost if Chapter 2 had simply been omitted, but whatever one decides to include needs to be covered properly.
On the more positive side, advantage has been taken of improvements in production techniques: the book is printed in large pages, on paper of good quality, with many illustrations, including a high proportion in two colours (or three if we count grey), and many stereo pairs. The use of colour is judicious rather than gaudy: there are none of the illustrations in full colour that make a book look flashy and modern but add little or nothing to the message being conveyed. Instead, red is used to highlight points of note, and grey is used for elements that need to be there but are not central to the message. To my mind that is exactly the right way to use colour in a serious book of this kind. Whether or not the stereo pairs are useful will depend on the reader: readers who have no difficulty in working their eye muscles to superimpose two images without losing focus will gain extra information from these pictures; others need to read the text more deeply.
In a book of this kind, with more than 800 pages, a good index is absolutely essential, but unfortunately the index is very poor. The minor criticism is that there is no author index (and authors are not included in the main index). The major criticism is that the subject index was obviously compiled by an employee of the publisher who had little idea of what the book was about. Under "pyridoxal-5'-phosphate (PLP)", for example, there is a cross-reference "see also PLP", and another cross-reference in the opposite direction, but the two lists are not the same, and each contains information that is not in the other. To take a different example, suppose you are interested in the stereochemistry of substitution at phosphorus atoms: how to find it? The index contains no entry under "stereochemistry" and nothing under "substitution" either. Skimming through two columns' worth of entries starting "phosph" you may notice entries under "phosphofructokinase", "phosphoglyerate kinase" and "phosphoglyerate mutase", but these are rather specific and you might be tempted to suppose that no general discussion is given. It is there, however, but to find it you need to look up "phosphoryl group transfer, chemistry of" and then go one page beyond the end of the range given