Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb: A review
Bern Hendricks is well known as one of the world's preeminent experts on the music of twentieth-century composer Frederick Delaney. When the board of the Delaney Foundation asks him to help authenticate some recently found music that may be Delaney's lost opera, Red, it is a dream come true for him. He happily gets to work on the project and gets help with it from his tech-savvy acquaintance Eboni.
But soon Bern and Eboni begin to uncover information that leads them to believe that Delaney may not have, in fact, composed this music or much, if not all, of the music attributed to him. They discover that it may instead have been composed by a young Black woman named Josephine Reed.
It was the 1920s and Josephine was living on the streets of New York and frequenting jazz clubs. In one of those clubs, she met Frederick Delaney. Delaney was trying to establish himself as a musician but it was not going well for him. His music was not making the impact that he hoped for. But once he met Josephine, he took her music as his own and his career took off.
Josephine was a prodigy who heard music in all the sounds of the world around her and she was able to translate that into her own compositions. Josephine and Delaney worked in a kind of uneven partnership. It was a partnership in which one of the partners was never acknowledged, but it was that partner whose talent and creativity made Delaney a success.
As Bern and Eboni continue digging, they become convinced of their discoveries and they pursue their own quest to right the wrongs of history and give Josephine Reed the credit she deserved. But they are working for the Delaney Foundation. Will that entity ever allow them to go public with their newly found information?
Brendan Slocumb writes a rousing good tale, one that easily held my interest throughout. His book gives a realistic picture (at least to the best of my understanding) of life in the 1920s and of the way that women and minorities and their music were perceived and were treated during that period. This is Slocumb's second novel. The first was The Violin Conspiracy. Based on the evidence so far, I would say he has a bright future as a novelist.