Cover Image: Symphony of Secrets

Symphony of Secrets

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Member Reviews

After reading The Violin Conspiracy, I will read anything Brendan Slocumb writes. The Violin Conspiracy was an incredible novel: Symphony of Secrets is better. It is the same Slocumb writing style that is sophisticated, addictive and enthralling. The same instrument prose that makes you feel like you can almost hear the music (and really  yearn too). As a musician, his knowledge and compassion is incredibly unique, and is flawlessly articulated in both novels. So real, it feels like a true story. 

Brendan's foreword was very special, and setup, and complemented the story perfectly as I continued to think back on it when reading. The Symphony of Secrets plot itself is so exciting: two timelines (past and present), multiple layers, great location, incredible characters (Josephine is my favorite), and in my opinion, the best suspense. Redemption in the end with purposely not tying it into the perfect bow. I can't stop thinking about the book, even a week later. I love when books jump between time periods, and Symphony of Secrets is textbook perfect flow. 

Symphony of Secrets confronts race and neurodiversity themes. Specifically, the reality for marginalized communities: racism  in 1920s America and also confronting present race issues. Expanding and challenging my own knowledge and understanding by listening (reading) and learning from Brendan and his characters perspective. It's one of the many reasons, I will read whatever he writes. 

I cannot recommend this novel enough and feel very honored to have gotten to read it early.
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I'd thoroughly enjoyed Brendan Slocumb's debut novel "The Violin Conspiracy", so jumped at the chance to read his newest novel.

"Symphony of Secrets" opens on Professor Bern Hendricks, a music professor at UVA, receiving an unexpected call from a board member of the famed Delaney Foundation, started by famed musician and composer Frederick Delaney. Delaney has long been Bern's idol, and as a recipient of the foundation's generosity as a child, he immediately flies into NYC to take on their assignment for him. Bern learns that Delaney's last and final composition known as RED, which seemingly disappeared almost a century ago, has been recovered and needs to be transcribed. Bern calls in a favor with a former colleague, Eboni Washington, and begins the daunting work - only to uncover more than he ever expected.

The novel shifts perspectives to the 1920s, when young Josephine Reed meets a struggling musician known as Fred Delaney a jazz club in Manhattan. Josephine understands the nuances and techniques that Fred is unable to grasp, and an unconventional partnership is formed between them - while Fred offers her a place to stay and a small income, she aids him in his musical skills and eventually, in composing music that he monetizes on. His rise to fame comes at a cost to Josephine, though, and the number of injustices that she suffers at his hands, especially as a black woman, has been buried from history - until Bern and Eboni begin to unravel the truth behind her identity and her true contribution to the music that has been attributed to the wrong person.

I loved how seamlessly Slocumb was able to blend elements of mystery, music, historical fiction, and critical race theory all in one novel. Despite this being his second novel, the writing is incredibly well developed and complex, and flowed seamlessly across chapters and perspectives. It's clear Slocumb has a deep knowledge of music as well, covering both the technical and descriptive range of sounds and music that were covered in the novel. The ending is an emotional and climactic one, and I think many readers will connect to and empathize with the struggles Bern and Eboni go through, and the tragedy and injustice that Josephine endured.

Very much a recommended read when this is released on 4/18/23!
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This is the author’s second novel, following on the well regarded Violin Conspiracy. I very much enjoy that these are music based stories. Think the world of composing is quiet? Well, not exactly when it may turn out that someone who claimed authorship of some works, may have had no right to do so.

What did Josephine Reed compose in the 1930s? What was her relationship with another composer named Delaney? Why is one of Delaney’s relative contacting protagonist Bern Hendricks? Who else will be involved as things become complicated? Will wrongs be righted? What is the role of race in the story and its events? Read this enjoyable, thoughtful sophomore work by the author to find out.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Anchor Books for this title. All opinions are my own.
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4.5 stars, rounded down
Symphony of Secrets is Brendan Slocumb’s sophomore effort.   While it took me longer to get into this story, it’s equally interesting and before I knew it, I was hooked.
Bern is a music professor at UVA with a background in Frederic Delaney, the most well known American composer of the first half of the 20th Century.  A composer who went down in flames when his final opera was a flop. The original had been lost before it was ever performed and despite Delaney’s efforts to re-write it, it was never anywhere as good as his previous work.   It’s interesting to see Slocumb create a composer out of his imagination, giving the reader a full sense of the oeuvre.   Bern is hired for a huge project when the Delaney Foundation finds the original version of the opera.   But Bern’s big find is that Delaney didn’t write it, a black woman, Josephine Reed, did.   
The story alternates between the two time periods. So often, dual timeline stories suffer as only one is sufficiently interesting.  But not here.  I found both engaging - the current search for the truth and the 20th Century tale of the creation of the music.   
Josephine Reed was not only black (or colored as she was called back then) but also neurodivergent (synesthetic) and was often labeled crazy.  It was a case of multiple strikes against her given the times.  “She heard thousands of sounds daily, and when they overwhelmed her she’d record them on her sheets.”  She was such a striking character.  When she watches as silver Freddy becomes gray Fred, my heart went out to her.   
The book focuses on the themes of racism and power, of greed and the ownership of ideas. The story ramps up faster and faster as it goes on.  This is one of those books where I was torn - I wanted to race through it at the same time I didn’t want to reach the end.  
My thanks to netgalley and Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage for an advance copy of this book.
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As with Slocumb's earlier work, this story revolves around a main character, Bern, who is a master musician embroiled in a mystery.  As a grateful recipient of considerable assistance from the Delaney Foundation, and an admirer of the late composer Frederic Delaney, Bern is thrilled when he is asked to transcribe the manuscript of a long lost Delaney symphony. As his work progresses he asks for assistance from his old friend, computer security whiz Ebonie. They uncover unusual "doodles" that lead them to eventually question the very basis of Delaney's work.  The racism of the early 20th century serves as counterpoint to the more subtle contemporary racism that Bern and Ebonie experience.  In their research they learn about African-American Josephine, a musical genius dealing with what we would now recognize as autism and synesthesia, and she ends up taking center stage in the book.  There is enough music theory interjected in the plot to satisfy serious readers, but not so much that it slows down the action.
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Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb

I was so excited when I heard that Brendan Slocumb was coming out with a new book. I loved his debut The Violin Conspiracy. I was even more excited when I got approved on NetGalley to receive an ARC. A big thank you to Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor.

Bern Hendricks is an expert of the famous composer Frederick Delaney. One day he gets a call from a woman who works at the Delaney foundation. She has something exciting to tell him. They have found a new piece of work and they want Mr Hendricks to come in and examine it. The piece looks like it could be the real RED opera. It was written as part of the Olympia series but the existing RED is not as good as the others in the series. Together with his friend Eboni, Mr Hendricks starts transcribing the piece and they uncover a secret. A secret that can change everything they have ever known about Mr Frederick Delaney.

The book has two storylines, one around the 1920s where we follow Mr Delaney and today where we follow Mr Hendrick and Eboni uncovering the secret.

In the first part of the book I really liked Frederick Delaney but ooh how I started to dislike him. The more pages I read, the more I disliked him. We get to follow him from being a nobody to this famous big composer. We will see what fame and fortune can do to a person because he really was kind and likable in the beginning. It did not change how much I loved this book. 

Brendan Slocumb is now my auto buy author. With two 5 start books… I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC digital copy. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own.

After reading an ARC of The Violin Conspiracy, I became an instant fan of Brendan Slocumb... and I immediately requested Symphony of Secrets as soon as it was posted on NetGalley.

At the end of chapter 3, I created a playlist to accompany the book. By chapter 5, I ordered pizza and made plans to do nothing but read for the rest of the night!

It is no secret (LOL) that I enjoy books with dual narrators/timelines. I absolutely love the manner in which the author was able to create an intriguing present day mystery that was intensified with historical and societal issues. No pressure to the author, but I am already waiting for the next book! And I know this review will be seen because we follow each other on IG!!!

5 stars and my deepest respect for the author.
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Symphony of Secrets, the latest novel from Brendan Slocumb, will be published on April 18, 2023. Anchor Books provided an early galley for review.

Slocumb's debut The Violin Conspiracy from 2022 was a very enjoyable book, so I was very excited to see what the author would do next. Once more, he uses his vast knowledge of music to create a new mystery. And, again, as an author of color, he is able to once again weave in themes regarding race and society to enhance the story in a natural, logical manner.

It took me a little bit to warm up to Bern, the fussy professor who is often obsessing about his appearance. However, I took instantly to Eboni, the Bronx computer-wiz with a passion for pizza. The present day part of the story really starts to sizzle when she is brought into the narrative.

And, as much as I love New York City, I felt excited when the story took a detour to Oxford, NC (about thiry miles from where I lived for several decades). The references as well as the whole Southern vibe was a fond reminder of my time living there.

As we learn more about Frederick Delaney via the scenes from the past, the secrets and truths of his rise to fame as a composer become clearer. And that is where the complex themes are explored. These are similarly mirrored in the present day when Bern and Eboni's digging into that past puts them in a challenging and deadly situation. I enjoyed how the latter half of the book played out, building back and forth until the final conflicts and resolutions.

This is another winner from Brendan Slocumb; he has quickly become a favorite author of mine.
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this book was outstanding!  from page 1 it held my attention, the suspense of what would happen, how the conflicts would resolve and who will succeed had me turning pages.    This is the second book by Brendan Slocumb, and the mystery is well developed, with two timeframes alternating throughout.  There are many themes.  The development of the characters evolves throughout the book allowing you to see the growth and changes of the characters.  There are many themes within this book making it an ideal book for discussion! I personally cannot wait for the next book by Mr. Slocumb.
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I loved The Violin Conspiracy and, though this book wasn't as good, I still really liked it. It was a little slow and boring in the beginning, but it picked up quickly. And I liked the alternating perspectives.
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After reading and loving The Violin Conspiracy last year, I was nervous to read Brendan Slocumb's latest because how could it compare to his debut? I'm so happy that Symphony of Secrets was great- although the first half dragged a little bit, the characters and alternating perspectives made up for it. I already can't wait to see what he writes next. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free e-copy.
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I loved Brendan Slocumbs debut The Violin Conspiracy and found it so fresh and original so I was really excited to get an advanced copy of this novel. Slocumb has seemingly started a new genre deemed “musical thriller” which is probably akin to dark academia but in the music world. 
The novel starts with a young Black man (and musical scholar/phd) being asked to transcribe a lost work by illustrious Fred Delaney, a world famous composer. I was a little nervous from the set up that I would be lost in the music worlds nomenclature but the set up was necessary and helped pave the way for understanding the rest of the novel. We then flash back to 1918 with young Freddy and Josephine. Freddy sells sheet music to the local department stores (which wow didn’t think abt how music was circulated pre radio and phonograph!) but has bigger dreams. Josephine is clearly (to the reader) neurodivergent and sees music in color and expresses herself in a very non typical way. I was immediately smitten, concerned, wanted to embrace this character. The pair begin collaborating and there are times of happiness but the train rolls away fast from Fred as he grasps for more success and fame. 

I really had a hard time putting this book down and was pained when I had to! The story of Josephine and Freddy was so well done and the care Slocumb put into Josephine was just beautifully done. She’s a character for the ages and the music not the book would have been as good without her.
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WOW, this book is a great combination of historical fiction and great storytelling!! It is a bit of a slow build but hang in there and you will be rewarded with a great reading experience!

This novel is told in past and present storylines but the writing flows beautifully and I enjoyed both timelines equally.

In the early twentieth century, Josephine Reed, is a neurodivergent woman who has just arrived in NYC. She hears, feels and writes music in a unique way with symbols and “doodles” that only she can understand. She is socially awkward but her music is incredible!

Frederick Delaney is a mediocre musician who hasn’t been able to further his career in NYC as he had hoped.

When he crosses paths with Josephine he sees an opportunity to learn from an incredibly talented musical genius!!  

What starts out as a sharing of talents soon deteriorates into a caustic relationship.This sets them on a path that will see them both change dramatically in the coming years!! 

In the present Dr. Bern Hendricks is professor in the music department at UVA. He has always revered the music of Fredrick Delaney.

Seemingly out of the blue he receives an email from Mallory Delaney Roberts the director of The Delaney Foundation. He returns the call and is being asked to come to the Foundation headquarters to work on “some original documentation from her uncle . . .would he be interested in an opportunity to assess it?” 

THAT NIGHT HE IS ON A PLANE TO NEW YORK. When he starts the work on the newly found music he recruits his good friend Eboni, a computer scientist, to help him solve the mystery of who actually wrote this music?? The chemistry between the two is fantastic and together they discover the remarkable history of who Delaney really was and what happened to Josephine.

Each of the storylines start out slowly but continue to build to an incredible “symphony” of secrets, lies, betrayal and greed.

This is a great story and the Author’s Notes are very enlightening. I would recommend however that you go into the novel blind and read the Author’s Notes at the end. That’s what I did and it makes the discoveries in the book that much more exciting!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley. I can highly recommend it to everyone!
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This book is so refreshingly original. Dual timeline historical fiction, mystery and suspense all rolled into one unputdownable novel. Starts as a modern day mystery and then you are launched back into 1918. I could see the setting and characters so vividly!  I loved it! ❤️

I’m no musician, so it had me a little worried at first. I thought it would be over my head and that maybe only a musician could truly appreciate this one. Arpeggio, virtuoso, obbligato, it’s all Greek to me! ☺️ But that all became secondary to the characters. Bern, Eboni and Freddy are well written. But Slocumb created a special character in Josephine. She will truly steal your heart. 

Releases next month and I highly recommend it! 🎉

Thank you to NetGalley and AnchorBooks for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Brendan Slocumb’s phenomenal first book, the Violin Conspiracy, is followed up by another literary masterpiece. Slocumb combines the historical mystery of the Da Vinci Code with the suspense and intrigue of the Silent Patient to create a page-turner centered around the 1920s New York music world, racism and the extraordinary lengths some people will go to to become famous. One of the best books I’ve read all year!
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The famous Delaney foundation reaches out to Bern Hendricks, a musicology professor, to ask him to prepare a long lost opera by Delaney for production. The foundation recently found the opera, Red, and Bern reaches out to his friend, Eboni, for assistance. They discover an odd note in the copy of Red which leads them to discover that Delaney may not have been the genius everyone thought he was before he died of suicide in 1936. A woman, Josephine Reed, seemed to have known Delany and been key in his success but they can't quite figure out how. The alternate narratives between the present day and the early 20th century builds suspense and the quick dialogue moves the novel at a fascinating pace.
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This book is interesting on SO many levels. It's dual timeline, and both timelines are equally interesting, so the book doesn't drag as it moves back and forth between them. Thinking about how women were treated back then in general, much less a neurodivergent woman of color, and it's easy to see how something like this could actually have taken place. The hardest thing is the descriptions of the music made me wish so desperately to listen to it...
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I received an advanced readers copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I greatly enjoyed the authors first novel and was thrilled to read this one. This book was fantastic! Filled with suspense that kept me going until the last page! What an amazing dual timeline story! Only reason I took so long to read this was I wasn’t reading much of anything due to recovery from surgery, but when I did read I read i had trouble putting it down!
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The delightful sparkle of Symphony of Secrets is found in two strong female character: Eboni Washington, a pizza-loving cybersecurity expert, and Josephine Reed, a musical composer. Professor Bern Hendricks has been hired by the Delaney Foundation to examine RED, a missing piece of an opera quintet written after the 1928 Olympic Games, and published by Frederic Delaney, an American composer. Bern begins to question if Delaney wrote the piece. The novel, written chapters that flashback between current day and the 1920s, examines how the opera came to be. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy strong female characters.
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A famous opera, missing for decades, has been found, and Bern is chosen by the Delaney Foundation to transcribe the music and bring it to life. But he discovers so much more. Following clues starting within the written music itself, he begins to learn about the hidden composer, Josephine Reed, who was not given credit. In the dual timeline, Josephine meets Freddy Delaney and is given the chance to write the music she wants to hear. Is it too good to be true? Music and mystery, secrets kept, and secrets discovered. An interesting story with wonderful characters. Already looking forward to the next!
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