cover image Symphony of Secrets

Symphony of Secrets

Brendan Slocumb. Anchor, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-31544-6

The thought-provoking latest from Slocumb (after The Violin Conspiracy) centers on fictional early 20th-century composer Frederick Delaney, celebrated for the brilliant music he produced before apparently losing his talent later in life. In the present day, the powerful Delaney Foundation calls in Bernard “Bern” Hendricks, an expert on the composer’s work, after they discover a previously unknown handwritten score of a Delaney opera. Delaney claimed to have lost his only copy of the work, and the clumsy score he recreated flopped when staged in 1936. Overjoyed to find that this version reflects Delaney’s genius, Bern accepts the foundation’s invitation to authenticate it. With the aid of a technology expert friend, Bern identifies cryptic markings on its pages as references to Josephine Reed, a Black musician who was sometimes seen with the white Delaney. When their investigation suggests Reed may have created the great music Delaney claimed as his, the foundation turns threatening in order to protect its namesake’s reputation. Gripping chapters set in the 1920s and 1930s vividly evoke Reed, Delaney, and the racial inequities that fueled their relationship, though the present-day narrative never fully gels. This exploration of the ways race, power, and modern music intersect lands as a timely page-turner. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management. (Apr.)