Let me start by saying that I do not as a policy usually review books for friends or acquaintances. I will beta read, but not usually review. Darin has a number of published short stories, that have received positive feedback, so I decided to give The Mussorgsky Riddle a try.
It was enthralling, clever, and had me hating to put it down. Here is a quick synopsis of The Mussorgsky Riddle provided by Curiosity Quills Press:
Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind. Thirteen-year-old Anthony Faircloth hasn’t spoken a word in almost a month and with each passing day, his near catatonic state worsens. No doctor, test, or scan can tell Anthony’s distraught mother what has happened to her already troubled son. In desperation, she turns to Mira for answers, hoping her unique abilities might succeed where science has failed.
At their first encounter, Mira is pulled into Anthony’s mind and finds the child’s psyche shattered into the various movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical music suite, Pictures at an Exhibition. As she navigates this magical dreamscape drawn from Anthony’s twin loves of Russian composers and classical mythology, Mira must contend with gnomes, troubadours, and witches in her search for the truth behind Anthony’s mysterious malady.
The real world, however, holds its own dangers. The onset of Anthony’s condition coincides with the disappearance of his older brother’s girlfriend, a missing persons case that threatens to tear the city apart. Mira discovers that in order to save Anthony, she will have to catch a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets contained in Anthony’s unique mind from ever seeing the light.
I was enthralled. Does that mean that it is a perfect book – no, but it is a truly engaging story.
The main character Mira Tejedor is fully developed. The reader comes to know who she is, how her talents work, what has influenced her personal choices, and understand why she isn’t completely overwhelmed by all of it. In many urban fantasy novels this detail is often neglected with the most important character even when it is in first person narrative like this story is. The reader knows Mira and what motivates her which brings her believably to life. The rest of the characters are equally intriguing, but Darin sticks with the first person so we only get to know the through Mira’s interactions with them.
The real world setting for the novel is Charlotte, NC, and well written so that as a local I know where the characters are at most of the time. It is the dreamscape world of Anthony’s mind that is amazingly rendered through words that paint a magical landscape and characters, influenced by his real world surroundings, mythology, music, and art that takes the readers along on a the psychic quest with Mira. The immersion is so complete that when real life invades this young boys imaginary happenings it is done with such ease that the reader follows willingly without being jarred with the transition.
The storytelling itself is tight and and easy to follow, with a couple exceptions where the individual characters voices and actions got a little muddy. It was not enough that I was disturbingly distracted, but it took me out of the story for a few minutes as I had to go back and reread it. Overall, I was sucked in as a reader.
I highly recommend Darin Kennedy’s first novel. It did not disappoint me, and for those who enjoy the genre I do not think that it will disappoint you either.
The novel comes out January 12. Buy it.