Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb #NetGalley #ARC #BookReview

Bern Hendricks has just received the call of a lifetime. As one of the world’s preeminent experts on the famed twentieth-century composer Frederick Delaney, Bern knows everything there is to know about the man behind the music. When Mallory Roberts, a board member of the distinguished Delaney Foundation and direct descendant of the man himself, asks for Bern’s help authenticating a newly discovered piece, which may be his famous lost opera, RED, he jumps at the chance. With the help of his tech-savvy acquaintance Eboni, Bern soon discovers that the truth is far more complicated than history would have them believe.

In 1920s Manhattan, Josephine Reed is living on the streets and frequenting jazz clubs when she meets the struggling musician Fred Delaney. But where young Delaney struggles, Josephine soars. She’s a natural prodigy who hears beautiful music in the sounds of the world around her. With Josephine as his silent partner, Delaney’s career takes off—but who is the real genius here?

In the present day, Bern and Eboni begin to uncover more clues that indicate Delaney may have had help in composing his most successful work. Armed with more questions than answers and caught in the crosshairs of a powerful organization who will stop at nothing to keep their secret hidden, Bern and Eboni will move heaven and earth in their dogged quest to right history’s wrongs.

Symphony of Secrets (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible)

On the surface, this book is a historical mystery with dual timelines that involves music theory. However, the book is much more than that. It’s an indictment to the marginalization of African Americans both in the past and the present.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read music and can’t read it today, but it certainly helps to know a little bit about music. That was my original draw to the book. Wrapped up in a man’s music is a mystery of how he could be so wildly successful, and then create something so bad that the public turns on him, leading to tragic results.

If I were you, I’d skip the author’s note at the beginning and save it for the end, because it gives away part of the plot. I hope, when published, the note is put at the end of the book.

The first 20% of the book is the story of Bern and Eboni, who have been hired to recreate the great Frederic Delaney’s lost opera called Red. It’s the final installment in a series of five operas written for the Olympics, one opera for each ring on the Olympic flag. The first four were published in the early 1920’s and were outstanding hits. Then, years pass and Red is nowhere to be found. Delaney claims to have lost his score in 1926, and takes years to recreate it, but when it’s released, the public and critics hate it. In recent times, the missing score is reportedly found and needs work to make it complete.

There are doodles all over the score, and while trying to figure what they mean, Bern and Ebony get ahold of some old documents and photos. In them is an African American woman. Who is it? What’s her connection to Delaney? Research indicates that she’s Josephine Reed, but there’s scant information about her. Eboni thinks Reed maybe was Frederic Delaney’s mistress or baby mama. So the digging continues.

The deeper Bern and Eboni go into the past, the less the Delaney Foundation likes it and goes to extreme measures to stop the two from digging any further. I won’t go into details into what happens, but let’s just say that crooked cops and racial profiling still happen to this day.

The book also goes back in time to Delaney’s time, which starts in 1918, and follows his career trajectory, with Josephine at his side. He’s very protective of her because she helps him with his music. That’s all I’ll say without giving away plot points.

This was a very twister thriller/historical mystery; so good that I’m afraid to give up any of the “Symphony of Secrets” the story entails. If you like those types of stories, you’ll enjoy this book.

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