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SYMPHONY OF SECRETS by Brendan Slocumb: Book Review

The life of a university professor is turned upside down when he’s offered an exceptional opportunity–to authenticate a long-lost classical masterpiece written by his idol, Frederic Delaney. 

Bern Hendricks is a young assistant professor at the University of Virginia who believes he owes his career to the opportunities the Foundation, started after the composer’s death,  gave him.

Bern receives a call from Mallory Delaney Roberts, the Delaney Foundation’s executive director and Delany’s niece.  Mallory is very discreet, even secretive, and she tells Bern that a piece of music has been found that she believes belonged to her uncle, and she would like Bern to  authenticate it.

Before the day is over he’s in a private office in the Foundation’s building, working on something so hush-hush he’s not really certain what it is.  But whatever it is, as long as it has a connection to Frederic Delaney, Bern is thrilled to be a part of it.

Symphony of Secrets is told in two voices in two time periods.  The first is Bern’s in the present, the second is Fredric Delaney’s in the 1920s.

In 1920, Delaney began composing his most famous opus, Five Rings of Olympia, an homage to the first Olympics held after World War I.  Each opera was named after a color of one of the Olympic rings.  Praise was heaped on the works BLUE, YELLOW, BLACK, and GREEN, and the world eagerly awaited the debut of RED, the ending to the mythical tale.  However, a decade went by, and there was no RED, until finally, in 1935, Delaney announced the opera was ready to be performed.

Triumph of the Americas:  The Red Rings of Olympia opened for five consecutive nights at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.  Delaney was prepared to enjoy every minute of his triumph after the insults and snide remarks he had received from critics wondering about the long hiatus between GREEN and RED.  However, what the audience at the premiere of RED heard was boring repetition and hackneyed melodies, and the critics were merciless.  The following morning, Delaney’s valet found him dead of a mixture of pills and alcohol.  His reputation never recovered.

Now Hendricks has the chance to bring the final, revised part of the Rings to the public and critics, based on the newly-discovered document.  However, as he works on RED, he notices some strange things about the document and the secrecy surrounding his employment.  His cell phone is taken away the moment he enters the Foundation’s building, he’s given a windowless basement office, he has to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and he’s not allowed to see the original document that was found, only the scanned version.

Bern is so thrilled to be working on RED, however, that he doesn’t linger on these unusual aspects of his job.  But when he calls on an old friend, tech-savvy Eboni Washington, to help him  with some aspects of the opera, she is much more aware than he of the strangeness of the situation and what could be behind it

Symphony of Secrets is a beautifully written mystery with a compelling plot and memorable characters.  The author is a musician with a degree in music education who has performed with orchestras throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D. C.   You can read more about him at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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