Hello and welcome to the first book review on my site! It is my pleasure to have selected The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy as my first selection.
HOUSEKEEPING: It is my plan to review one book each month. I’ll try my best to select a fairly current release as well as select a variety of genres. Also, instead of a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I’m going to rate books on a scale of 1 to 5 pencils.
What a debut novel this is. It’s wildly imaginative, an enjoyable read, and truly keeps you guessing. Or at least me since I’m rubbish when it comes to solving mysteries of any kind.
The story centers around Mira Tejedor, a psychic brought to Charlotte, NC by the Faircloth family after 13-year-old Anthony suddenly falls into a near comatose state. Neither his mother nor the boy’s therapist can figure out what caused this state so they take a chance that based on Mira’s reputation. Naturally the boy’s therapist is skeptical until Mina’s first session with the boy. Quickly Mira becomes determined to help Anthony as soon as possible in an effort to cure or retrieve Anthony, the real Anthony, trapped inside his own mind.
To say Mira falls through the rabbit hole or crashes through the looking glass is a huge understatement. Anthony’s mind has been so fractured by whatever trauma he witnessed that as a coping mechanism he recreates composer Modesto Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition a multi-movement masterpiece based upon the artwork of Viktor Hartmann, a close friend of Mussorgsky who died unexpectedly. Each picture in Anthony’s mind represents either a part of Anthony or someone in his life whom he’s close to like his older brother, younger sister, etc.
The further Mira explores Anthony’s mind, the more their two worlds mesh. At one point he essentially calls to her from across the city and parts of her mind spill into his world. As a psychic, a gift she inherited from her mother & grandmother, Mira sees a similar gift in both Anthony and his younger sister.
Quite by accident the situation switches from being retrieving Anthony to solving the disappearance, and mostly likely death, of one of the students at Anthony’s school who happens to be the ex-girlfriend of his older brother. She’s reluctant to pursue this as it brings back memories of the missing person’s case she is most well-known for. But it becomes apparent to her that Anthony’s state and the disappearance of Julianna Wagner are connected and she must solve the case to help the boy. Only by solving the riddle will both Anthony and Mira be free.
The Mussorgsky Riddle is clever and inventive with cheeky name references of characters related to not only their ability, Mira is very close to the Spanish verb for ‘to see’, as well as last names of Wagner and Holst just to name a few. When we get inside Anthony’s mind, all the characters take on names reflective of their particular piece of art. Kennedy does a wonderful job bringing in all five senses into the prose. In addition to Mira being a psychic and empathetic, she also smells emotions except for when she’s inside Anthony’s head. I loved how it married music and art with the modern world creating a magical realism quality. All the characters are fleshed out and I appreciate how gray the characters are. The flow of the story is excellent with tight, emotional storytelling.
This is a book that even if you don’t read a lot of fantasy or haven’t considered heading fantasy, it is a book you can appreciate. For those of us who do enjoy fantasy, this book, while set in modern times, will satisfy.
So on my completely subjective scale of pencils, from 1 to 5 I give The Mussorgsky Riddle 4 ½ pencils.