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Author Brendan Slocumb is back with another pitch-perfect musical mystery

Brendan Slocumb's new book is titled "Symphony of Secrets"
David Bickley
Brendan Slocumb's new book is titled "Symphony of Secrets"

“Symphony of Secrets” is the sophomore effort from author and classical violinist Brendan Slocumb, whose debut novel, “The Violin Conspiracy,” crescendoed up the best-seller lists last year like the final movement of Beethoven’s Fifth.

And as expected, this one is page-turning and pitch-perfect.

The novel tells the story of Bern Hendricks, one of the world’s preeminent experts on the famous — and totally fictional — composer Frederick Delaney. When Hendricks is tasked with authenticating a newly discovered piece that could be Delaney’s long-lost opera, he seizes the chance. He solicits help from a sassy and tech-savvy colleague, Eboni, and the two uncover clues that take them into the jazz clubs and music lounges of 1920s New York City.

Mysterious notations in Delaney’s work put them on the trail of a Black woman named Josephine Reed, and they begin to wonder whether the famous musician was really the genius that everyone thought he was. Meanwhile, they have to battle an institution that doesn’t want the truth exposed.

The novel seamlessly alternates between past and present, as Slocumb illuminates the racial inequities that existed in the ’20s and continue today. He breathes life into every character, but especially Josephine, who hears music all around her, from knocking doors to rushing subway trains. The story ramps up gradually to its slightly bonkers but satisfying conclusion.

The novel speaks to issues of racism, greed, and power in the music industry and beyond. An altogether thrilling ride, and I can’t wait to see what Slocumb does next.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.