I recommend this novel highly. It's hard to know what each individual may be searching for in a murder mystery, and there are as many different tastes as there are opinions among readers. Nevertheless, this book is not really about "murder" and "mysteries" per se. It is far more psychological and personal that many other crude attempts that cloud libraries today. It also explores the depths of human experience in the areas relating to sexuality, fears, sexual identity, and long-repressed emotions. There is much in there for any reader to identify with. The characters are very well developed, and there is bound to be at least one moment for everyone to feel that they have "been there" or that they "have been in that particular situation before."
What I like about the book is that it managed to open up certain long forgotten images from my past, some good, and some bad. Once the bad was out of the way (relating to my fear of darkness and bizarre perversions) in the first chapter, then I felt that I could begin exploring the true purposes of the book. There are shocking and disturbing moments in there, but this goes very well with the territory of standard contemporary murder myseries, and it is rather tame compared to other novels that shock for the sake of shocking.
I pride myself on being an expert on the music of Sibelius. I am a musicologist and also an orchestral conductor who has been involved in numerous performance of this music. My initial fear when seeing the book for the first time last year was that my image of the composer might be ruined or "tarnished." I even told the author this after I contacted him through his book website (http://www.sevensymphonies.com/). However, it was impossible for me to put the book down because I felt that 1) He had me completely riveted narrative-wise, 2) I was intrigued about these strange bedfellows: Sibelius and homicide. It wasn't a direct relation to the composer; the music and life of Sibelius was only used as a vehicle for the story, and 3) The author's use of language was very creative and compellingly real; I felt like everything was really happening.
Simon Boswell has obviously put a great deal of thought and planning into this story. It may very well be his apotheosis. As he told me, he has been living in Helsinki for most of his professional life, and the music of Sibelius is one of the things that drew him there. This was exactly the same experience for me (as I know the city of Helsinki quite well), and as a Sibelius scholar, I consider his treatment of the material to be knowledgeable as well as respectful toward Finland's greatest composer. From my perspective, I thought "Why not explore another side of Sibelius?" Since I know every note of his music by this point, I always find it interesting re-explore it through the eyes of others.
I give this an enthusiastic five stars!