When dealing with a composer whose works were so erratic and often incomplete, writing a combined biography and analysis of his works is not an easy task. Brown approaches this with sensible organization, alternating between chapters that detail Mussorgsky's life and focus on his individual compositions of important note. Significant amounts of the book are even devoted to the half-finished, aborted, or otherwise incomplete works of the composer. This is justified since these works provide some insight into Mussorgsky's compositional process, although it is sometimes presented at a level too dense for the amateur musician. Another area of focus is Mussorgsky's relationships in the "mighty handful" with specific members, and also to the RMS (Russian Music Society) and FMS (Free Music Society).
Brown's command of the English language is certainly nothing to dismiss as his diction and syntax are colorful, rich, and flowing. He often refers to Mussorgsky's compositional capacity as his "musical armory", a fitting metaphor perhaps to capture the essence of violence that often arises in Mussorgsky's works, as well as his hostility toward western music.
The biographical portions of the book are densely pocked with excerpts from letters and memoirs belonging to the most influential people in Mussorgsky's life, and Mussorgsky himself. Brown sometimes acts merely as a guide to weave all of these observations and discourses together to give the reader an accurate characterization of the composer. Of course, a near inexhaustible amount of documents could probably be relevantly cited, and it is Brown's job to attempt to extract what is important and create an unbiased recollection. There is one thing in particular that seems to be suspiciously highlighted in the later years of Mussorgsky's life, and that is his relationship with Cesar Cui. The latter composer seems to recognize his inferiority to the other members of the kuchka as the years wane on, and he particularly seems to react hostilely toward Mussorgsky. Brown cites his criticisms increasingly and also Mussorgsky's reactions, which tend toward anger and insult. It seems strange that these two that share such brotherhood in their musical circle would lash out with such negativism. Brown even notes that Cui's criticism continues near into Mussorgsky's death, almost suggesting some form of the mythical Mozart-Sallieri relationship. Perhaps Brown subconsciously wished to add a bit more tension to his biography (which, as a biography - often lacks the interest of fiction), and he certainly succeeds in portraying Cui as the villain in Mussorgsky's life
One shortcoming I see is the failure of the book to explain Mussorgsky's knowledge of music theory. Brown uses vague adjectives such as "uneducated, intuitive, unrefined" etc. to define Mussorgsky's compositional finesse, but rarely goes into any more detail. It is difficult to tell how Mussorgsky thought when he composed. Did he have knowledge of chord theory and progression, so that he could explain and "break down" his music rather than just let it flow from his mind in chaos? Did he discover these things through his own intuitiveness but with a flare of originality? It becomes apparent that Mussorgsky begins to revel in his own ignorance of western music theory, idealizing the "natural" composer as the superior filter for music.
Lastly, either due to a lack of evidence or because Brown considered it irrelevant, Mussorgsky's mental illness is largely left ambiguous. A few letters give strange metaphorical accounts of Mussorgsky's bouts of mental anguish, but they fail to list any real symptoms. I would consider the mental condition of a composer to be the primary factor contributing to the music he wrote. The book should have an appendix if not a chapter at lease speculating what the causes or true symptoms of Mussorgsky's periodic mental distress were.
In its entirety, the book succeeds in giving the reader a strong foundation of Mussorgsky as a composer. Brown highlights his relationships with other Russian composers and musicians of the time, his financial and residential situations, his musical revelations and awakenings (as shown by his letters), and the context in which each of his works, completed or not, arise.