Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy

A girl goes missing, a community left in shambles, and from the mind of a little boy emerges chaos…

Enter Mira Tejedor.

A gifted psychic still reeling from her last case, Mira comes to the rescue of Anthony Faircloth, a young boy left in a catatonic state by a secret so dark it lays buried within an unimaginable world constructed by his mind.  Entering a realm where the rules don’t apply and danger draws itself on every wall, she must contend with The Exhibition if she is to save this child’s life.

Based on Modest Mussorgsky’s classical Russian suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, The Mussorgsky Riddle is a wonderful debut and a great entry into the paranormal mystery genre. What really drew me to this story was the ability on Kennedy’s part to really delve into his wealth of ability when it comes to writing strong First Person POV. Now, I know some of you might be going:

“Well, Jay, there’s a bunch of work out there in the first person. Why is this different?”

It’s different because Kennedy wows us with vivid imagery, well-developed dialogue, and brushes of introspective genius in some of the story’s pivotal moments. His characters are varied and fleshed out so that they aren’t just tropes moving around on the page—they are real people, with real frailties and sense, something that I think often gets lost in First Person.

More importantly, however, Kennedy goes out of his way to make his main actors human in the truest sense. Mira rarely has an off-note, nor do her gallery of rogues. Without being too spoiler-y, this version of Baba Yaga is probably the best I have ever come across, and I like Hellboy. That’s how good this Baba Yaga is.

That’s not to say there aren’t imperfections. The book drags at times trying to figure out a way for the characters to go after all the plot points in a natural fashion, and sometimes it is done so ham-fistedly. Mystery as a rule is built on the three “C’s”: Creative Characters, Constant Suspense, and Connecting the Dots. In this case one may argue that there are spots where The Mussorgsky Riddle suffers from not maintaining a constant feeling that something can happen at any time, relying instead on a few cliches we've seen before like jealous lovers and attractive partners.

These small missteps are made up for with Kennedy’s ability to offer surprises in ways that aren’t forced or stayed, and they engage the reader enough that you want to keep reading, even when the story is a bit ho-hum. Kennedy is good at connecting the dots to keep us going.

Overall, this is a damned final novel. With its lush setting, a cast of unique characters, and a well written story, The Mussorgsky Riddle is a book we should all pick up and give a serious read. It will be available on January 12, 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press.

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