June 5, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Thrilling novel filled with music and plot twists

Symphony of Silence

Anchor Books

With the release of Brendan Slocumb’s second novel, “Symphony of Secrets,” fans were anticipating a suspenseful and engaging novel that would have an abundance of plot twists and leave them hungry for more Slocumb novels.

After Slocumb’s 2022 release, “The Violin Conspiracy,” readers were able to familiarize themselves with the life of a professional violinist while also keeping up with a fast-paced mystery plotline. While Slocumb’s previous novel was criticized for being too intense and without relief, he shows his audience that he’s capable of adding funny and lighthearted elements to his stories. Woven within the intensity of the plot, there are several comical exchanges between characters and even some hidden easter eggs for classical music lovers to enjoy. Fans expressed their excitement when Slocumb announced that he’d be sending “Symphony of Secrets out into the world less than a year after his first publication.

As expected, Slocumb does not stray far from his musical roots with his second novel. The story follows the life of Bern Hendricks, a musicology professor working at the University of Virginia. Hendricks is contacted by the organization of his life-long favorite composer, Frederic Delany, and is asked to prepare a show based on a rediscovered opera manuscript written by Delany, entitled “RED.”

With the help of his friend Eboni, the pair delve into the world of “RED” and discover the hidden truth regarding Delany’s major success. Through their studies, they interpret symbols and doodles inscribed on the physical manuscript, track down people who the composer knew before his death in the60s and more.

Slocumb is also able to add metaphoric discussions on white privilege and racial discrimination without breaking the flow of the story. The duo are able to uncover secrets regarding Delany’s treatment and relationships with African Americans from the 60s, which opens this conversation and gives readers a truly unique interpretation on discrimination and hypocrisy.  Additionally, the conversations and themes interwoven between Bern and Eboni also add to these undertones in a more positive manner. As a person of color, it’s clear that Slocumb is fighting for racial justice and equality in everything he does without letting his fight become the sole focus of his novels.

One of the most impressive aspects of Slocumb’s new masterpiece is his ability to switch back and forth between past and present without any transitional issues. These seamless time jumps add numerous layers to the suspense and mystery that are slowly being uncovered throughout the book. Despite these jumps, readers will have very little trouble following the storyline. Slocomb also effectively uses humor during scenes that may overwhelm readers with suspense, especially moments shared between Bern and Eboni as they continue to uncover secrets.

Slocumb’s “Symphony of Silence” is one of the strongest thriller publications of the year. Slocumb delivers a fast-paced novel that makes readers question the protagonist’s reality and encourages them to make their own guesses as more clues are uncovered. 

This novel may be especially attractive for those who love music and music education, but the novel will also be a blast for readers who want to be on the edge of their seats and participate in solving the case alongside Slocumb’s characters. With this being only his second novel — and based on how well it was put together — it’s a reasonable assumption that Slocumb has a long, successful career ahead of him.