Book Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle, by Darin Kennedy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press  |  Publication date: 12th January 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

The Mussorgsky Riddle Review

The Mussorgsky Riddle

The Mussorgsky Riddle is a cleverly constructed mystery. It takes a trip down a very sinister yellow brick road in time to the musical score of a piano suite entitled: Pictures at an Exhibition written by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky.

Young Antony Faircloth is a special lad with talents beyond anything we could understand. It’s been suggested he has Asperger’s or Autism, as he doesn’t communicate well with the outside world with the exception of his younger sister.

Recently he’s been obsessing over his favourite thirteen note passage of music written by Mussorgsky, rocking gently to the tune as he continuously hums it. His symptoms appeared to escalate after a family trauma where his brother’s girlfriend has gone missing and his brother is under suspicion.

His mum has been taking him to visit Dr Archer, a child psychiatrist, to see if this will reopen the door to allow his mind to return to us, but it’s soon revealed that it will take someone with extra talents to unlock his thoughts.

Here’s where our exceptionally gifted Mira Tejedor comes in. Previously having assisted the police in finding a young girl alive and returning her to her family, Antony’s mum has also contacted Mira hoping she can help where Dr Archer cannot, by applying her unique gift for seeing into people’s psyche.

Mira’s gift is met with opposition and scepticism and yet she proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can delve deep inside Antony’s mind. The result of her intervention will be more challenging than she first thought, when their two worlds collide with surprising consequences.

The phases of solving the riddle evolve during a visit to the ‘Mussorgsky Exhibition’ within Antony’s mind. Each portrait is a stage of the music’s movement and the residents of the portraits represent the people close to the boy, although they are crone-like, gnomish or some other fantasy creature in his world. The exhibition takes on a life of its own as survival instinct kicks in, offering subtle clues to Mira who is playing her own part and sees her battling the exhibition’s nemesis, Baba Yaga, an old witch, also featured in the musical piece.

Outside the child’s head the motives of a few people need to be questioned, people close to the boy. But will they give Mira the chance to dig deeper? Will she alienate her own daughter in the process, as her ex is muscling in while she tries desperately to gain Antony’s trust? And who is the menace conjured by his mind preventing anyone from discovering the truth?

The characters face challenging situations throughout and the fragile pieces of an astonishing puzzle will only slot together if Mira can interpret the cryptic journey that Antony’s mind is conducting.

The Mussorgsky Riddle is surreal, utterly fascinating and suspenseful to boot, making this an absolute marvel of a read. 

Rating: 4/5

(Enjoyed this one. It’s different. Many thanks to the publishers, Curiosity Quills Press, for getting in touch and providing a digital copy for review purposes.)

The Mussorgsky Riddle Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

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.


The Mussorgsky Riddle Author Links

You can connect with author Darin Kennedy here:


 *** A little background information, in case you’re interested… ***

Following the sudden death of his friend and artist Viktor Hartmann in 1873, Modest Mussorgsky was inspired to write piece of music entitled Pictures at an Exhibition. The artist’s work was exhibited in Russia in 1874. The music follows an imaginary tour of an art exhibition. The movements in the composition take their titles from paintings by Viktor Hartmann.

It’s astonishing to think that Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in just six weeks…

Click HERE to listen to the piano version on You Tube.


The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers  |  Published 2nd July 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

A curse? Or something even more sinister? Welcome to the accident season…

This curious story is narrated by seventeen year old Cara, who takes a moment to introduce us to her seemingly ordinary family: her sister, Alice, her ex-step brother, Sam, and their mother, a purple-haired artist named Melanie, who all live together in County Mayo, Ireland.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about this family (except for their purple-haired mother), so it’s surprising to learn that they each suffer from the same affliction.

Every year during the entire month of October they fear what they have come to know as ‘the accident season’. During this time, they are prone to knocks, scrapes, bumps and the like – in extreme circumstances, deaths have also occurred.

Under the guidance of Cara’s best friend Bea with her trusted Tarot cards, Bea foretells that this year is not looking good.  It turns out she was right.

Despite their mother taking some ridiculous precautions to protect her children, even bubble-wrapping the kitchen surfaces to prevent any incidents, Alice has already taken a mysterious tumble down the stairs and Cara is wearing a wrist brace, but the mystery grows…in addition to this strange phenomenon, Cara sees something she’s never noticed before – for the last seventeen years a quiet girl named Elsie, who she last remembered from when she was eight years old, seems to have appeared in all their family photos.

accident season tumblr

Mysterious: The friends hold a surreal Masked Ball where certain truths are revealed. (Photo is courtesy of the Accident Season Tumblr site.)

Clearly unnerved by this, Cara embarks on a mission to discover why she’s never noticed Elsie in the pictures before and exactly what she’s doing there. It soon becomes clear that this is a story overflowing with a desperate need for the truth and as a dark family secret bubbles closer to the surface you just can’t help but read on.

Various ‘accidents’ continue to occur throughout the story and I couldn’t help wondering what fate has in store for Cara and Co. Running parallel to these incidences are some tough, real-life issues being tackled head-on.

Though the story does enter odd dreamlike phases, these paranormal/fantasy elements are artfully woven into the pages. For me, this placed more emphasis on just how detached from reality the family have become.

I admit that my heart broke once or twice as they struggled to confront their own relationships, without losing each other along the way. But this quirky read, told in a straightforward uncomplicated way, captivated me right to the end, when the true darkness that shadowed this family finally revealed itself.

The Tumblr page to accompany this story is eerily good too:    (The images above are all credited to this site.)

Rating: 4/5

(Huge thanks to the publisher for the advanced Kindle copy, via Netgalley.)

Accident Season Author Link Graphic 2

You can follow the author on Twitter: @moirawithatrema

Author’s Tumblr Page:

Buy the Book: Amazon UK

IA : Initiate, by John Darryl Winston

Publisher: Purple Ash Press  |  Publication date: 19th April 2014  |  Edition: Kindle (review copy)

IA Initiate by John Darryl Winston

A quirky and intelligent fantasy for Young Adults

Welcome to Naz’s world – The Enclave – where he’ll come face to face with opponents from all walks of life: gangs, an unsympathetic foster carer, a enigmatic chessmaster, but mostly himself.

Naz has already experienced his fair share of troubles following the loss of their mother. The young lad is also tasked with taking care of his little sister, Meri, which isn’t easy given the often unfriendly territory they find themselves in.

Coming to terms with a past he has no memory of, he has to release his own potential in this world by accepting the challenges presented to him. But will he select the path that will set him on the right way in life?

Between episodes of sleepwalking and surreal occurrences involving telekinesis, things just don’t add up. Accepting guidance from his doc/therapist, teachers, and not forgetting wise little Meri, Naz shows us that it’s possible to achieve great things without having to embrace the ‘dark side’. 

Quirky and intelligent, this is an edgy fantasy in places and offers an alternative way of capturing everyday issues to show that ‘brains are better than brawn’.  There’s some nice dialogue exchanged between the characters too.

There are a couple of loose ends I would have liked to have been concluded in the finale (then again, I can be a bit of a ‘neat freak’ sometimes!). Perhaps everything will be explored further in a book two…

All-in-all a different and entertaining story that will appeal to a young adult audience.

Rating: 3.5/5

I must take this opportunity to offer my gratitude to the author, who kindly provided this Kindle edition for me to read and review. Thanks for getting in touch (and letting me loose on your book!)

If you wish, you can follow the author on Twitter: @johndwinston

The Double Shadow, by Sally Gardner

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books  |  Published 5th March 2015  |  Edition: Paperback

The back of the book blurb:

War clouds gather over Britain.

Amaryllis Ruben is hiding a secret even she does not understand. In a bluebell wood stands a picture palace. Her father built it to house his invention; one that could change the war-torn world forever. He plans to give it to her on her seventeenth birthday. 

But it’s a present Amaryllis doesn’t want, and in it is a past she must come to terms with and a boy whose name she can’t remember…

Let me start my saying that the intro blurb above does not do this book justice IN ANY WAY.

Double Shadow book

The Double Shadow meaning: A reference in The Picture Palace of memories which can determine what, or who is real.

From the first page you step into a whole new ethereal world created by Sally Gardner. We are introduced to a young girl who has found herself in a surreal environment, a room with a flickering green light which prevents her from remembering, her memories are all but gone. Where is she? Nothing makes sense, but she has an inkling that something is very, very wrong.

Amaryllis is searching for something that is missing from her life. Without an identity or memory of her past will she find it?

Set during the 1940’s and on the cusp of the Second World War, Amaryllis seems like an attention seeking and spoilt teen, in the absence of her mother, her father gives her everything; a nice home, a private education but he is rarely around and is often working on his special invention.

The ‘wayward’ girl rewards the nice lifestyle she’s been provided with by sneaking off school and getting herself expelled and developing quite an attitude. But no one knows that she conceals a secret that she can’t confide in anyone, about the awful day she drank champagne with a ‘charming’ man by the name of Maurice Sands.

She becomes home educated by Miss Bright, meets Ezra Pascoe, a neighbour’s boy, whom she taunts and teases and is generally unpleasant to. All the while her father’s assistant is ever watchful, ever present and announces that on her seventeenth birthday her father has a special gift for her – even though he’s not there to give it to her personally.

Film Reel

Our memories are like DNA; they make us who we are.

His gift is The Picture House, something her father has been working on for years in the grounds of their home. This is a place that holds mind recordings from people in the village, as well as Amaryllis. It’s a palace of memories where all the bad ones have been filtered out for her. Inside this time-paused-bubble his daughter will be cocooned away from the War. But fathers can’t protect their daughters from everything, no matter how hard they try.

The Picture House has attracted interest from the Government. They don’t want it to fall into the enemy’s hands and they go to great lengths to prevent this from happening.

White tiger courtesy of

The appearance of the mysterious White Tiger…will Amaryllis be tormented forever?


Before I knew it I’d stepped into an eroding illusion of Amaryllis’s world. There’s far too much to describe: People are sucked into this strange place. Characters conceal dark pasts. There’s a mysterious White Tiger prowling the interior of The Picture House. And the familiar childhood tune of the Teddy Bears Picnic playing over in Amaryllis’s mind at intervals is quite unnerving.

Although it’s ‘fantastic’ enough to be a fairy tale I couldn’t describe it as such – it’s a much darker story of being lost and being loved.

To summarise, it’s loosely akin to an amnesic Alice in Wonderland, passing through Narnia in a customised T.A.R.D.I.S., while German bombs start to fall like rain.

This unique, vivid story may not appeal to everyone, but I certainly found it to be an unexpected and engrossing distraction and I’m keen to explore more of this author’s work.

Rating: 4/5

(Many thanks to the publisher for providing a paperback copy of this book for an honest review (via Leah @UTBookblog)

You can follow the author on Twitter:  @TheSallyGardner   |  Publisher: @the_orionstar