A gripping page-turner from the celebrated author of book club favorite The Violin Conspiracy: Music professor Bern Hendricks discovers a shocking secret about the most famous American composer of all time—his music may have been stolen from a Black Jazz Age prodigy named Josephine Reed.
Determined to uncover the truth that a powerful organization wants to keep hidden, Bern will stop at nothing to right history's wrongs and give Josephine the recognition she deserves.
“A maestro of musical mystery...Slocumb’s writing is invigorating, and the detail in his character work makes the main characters in both time periods easy to root for.... Thrilling.” —The New York Times
"At once a celebration of music and also a cautionary tale about legacy, privilege, and creative genius." —Nita Prose, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Maid
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.
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.
Couldn’t put it down!
I’d loved the twists and turns of The Violin Conspiracy and was thrilled to see Mr. Slocumb had written a second novel. Symphony of Secrets delves into another aspect of music history with a compelling plot and personable characters. Well done!
The first time in many years I’ve read a book I couldn’t put down. Page turner for sure. Dealing with Frederick Freddy Frederic Fred raises the question how well do we know the people we idolize and sometimes build our lives and institutions around? The use of intricate technologies in music was also very fun. Still hopeful that one day visible diversity will be natural instead of an enforced standard. Was confused by the choice of ‘rent dot com’ on it’s own as a threat to take someone down, that section should be clarified. Was it only threatening because it was MSM not MSW? This book was an excellent read.