by Darin Kennedy
There are quite a few songs that spoke to me on a deep, visceral level, but never quite to the extent that music spoke to Darin Kennedy, who wrote a book as a result. And, I definitely can’t compete with Anthony Faircloth in Kennedy’s story, The Mussorgsky Riddle. I mean, he set up his mind according to Pictures at an Exhibition by the Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky, while I often struggle to remember simple lyrics. He (Anthony) actually wound up more-or-less catatonic for … reasons, that become apparent as the story progresses. Worried, and out of options, his mother calls in a psychic, Mira Tejedor, to try and figure out what’s wrong and, perhaps, coax him back out into the world. (You know, as you do.) Mira attempts to do just that, exploring the Exhibition in Anthony’s mind, to try and solve this mystery.
I must say that The Mussorgsky Riddle is hugely imaginative. Kennedy goes through great lengths to describe the fantastic details he peppered throughout the Exhibition. And, while the story’s a slow burn, by about the halfway mark, I was absolutely enthralled by the plot; at that point, the story takes a very intriguing turn, and my mind starting running wild with all the possibilities that were surely to come. Unfortunately, right after Kennedy had me, just had me, the story kind of … stalls. We linger around the wonderful mental landscape, slowly circling back around for what feels like an unnecessarily long time, accomplishing little, plot-wise, when the author could have escalated things and built to an exciting finish. And, by the end, everything wraps up nicely, a bit too nicely; I wanted to come to––and was coming to––my own conclusions, but it all eventually gets laid out explicitly. Of course, this is much better than something like a cliff hanger, and some readers will welcome the explanation, but I wanted to discuss what’s really happening; I wanted to reread the book and pick up on little details I missed the first time through.
No matter what negatives I have to offer, however, Kennedy really shows that he’s a new novelist with great potential, and that The Mussorgsky Riddle is … riddled … with great ideas. (I kill me.) With time, I’m sure we’ll be seeing great stories with tighter narratives from an increasingly confident writer. I’ll most definitely be keeping an eye on him.