Robert D. Sutherland



Graphic - The Farringford Cadenza book coverRobert D. Sutherland (A Novel)

The Second Edition (2020) is published electronically on this website, and the entire text may be downloaded as a PDF file free of charge by clicking on the following link: The Farringford Cadenza (11 Mb).

(First Edition, 2007) 536 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-936044-08-8 (trade paperback)


“Robert Sutherland's The Farringford Cadenza is written with wit, devious charm, and a disdain for all forms of ingrained American stupidity, particularly, in this case, the novel of intrigue and conspiracy. But it is much more than a spoof of a pulp novel. Sutherland's best criticism of the pulp novel is not parody, but the intricate development of its own richly imagined world."
— Curtis White, novelist and cultural critic

“My goodness, what pithy, fast-paced fun Sutherland’s latest novel is. The Farringford Cadenza mixes surprise, satire, slapstick, and the absurd. Underneath the genteel veneer of the classical music world thrive greed, vanity, and lust—the makings of a roaringly funny read.”
— Robert D. Carson, critic

“A continuous improvisation on a theme which has been heard only in the distant past, The Farringford Cadenza takes the reader from interrupted cadence to interrupted cadence in a flow of imaginative counterpoint. At the arrival of the final cadenza, I was eager to give the composer a standing ovation.”
— Alexander Murray, formerly principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra

“Sutherland’s amazing Sticklewort and Feverfew is a tough act to follow, but the lost-found iterations of The Farringford Cadenza open a vortex: the missing cadenza becomes mystery, legend, dream, obsession, passion, love, death. It is the nothing of Lack, the everything of Desire, a crucible in which the powerful become weak and the weak become, momentarily, powerful as they contend to shore up their shortcomings, fill up their emptinesses. In Sutherland’s hands, the cadenza becomes a fountain of language in the seedbed of metaphor, the missing referent that, like the music, can only be described and never possessed. The Farringford Cadenza will keep you page-turning to the end—or rather, the beginning.” 
— Lucia Cordell Getsi, poet; author of Intensive Care

“Pianists need page-turners, but this tale of mystery and music is a page-turner on its own. It rings true! A musical cadenza requires creativity and bravado, and The Farringford Cadenza has it all. As a musician, I couldn't put it down.”
— Maribeth Gowen, concert pianist

“A musical mystery about the mysteries of music to inspire our highest aspirations or to fire our lowest desires. Psychology and art, spirit and base motivation conspire to create a story that is knowing, surprising, and—best of all—lots of fun to read.”
— Bradford Gowen, concert pianist



Escher’s Rollercoaster

Excerpts from a review by Sheri Reda of Robert D. Sutherland’s The Farringford Cadenza in AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW (November/ December 2008) (website “LineOnLine” section, pp. 2L-3L))

   I just finished reading a masterwork by M. C. Escher—in the form of a detective novel about an elusive piece of music. Or maybe I just finished riding it. I have the same exhilarated, queasy feeling I associate with debarking from a particularly well-crafted wooden roller coaster.
   Robert D. Sutherland’s The Farringford Cadenza, published by Pikestaff Press, led me up stairs that descend into the bowels of organized crime, down industrial avenues that end in open ports, and through a maze of second-hand shops, cheap hotel rooms, sumptuous concert halls, and vehicles ranging from trains and planes to pickup trucks and limousines—all to arrive where I started, laughing from joy at the ride. ... The novel starts out with the deliberate sense of anticipation that only a gifted storyteller can construct. ... Like a roller coaster, the novel chugs slowly and carefully out of the gate, groove to track. Once the reader has a grasp of its foundational events, the story takes off, collecting characters and confounding expectations at an increasing, mind-rattling pace.
   Ostensibly, this is a novel about a cadenza—which I now know is not a piece of furniture but an instrumental solo passage in a concerto. ... Thus, the novel’s illustrious Mr. Farringford has meticulously composed his celebrated cadenza, a masterwork within the masterwork of his concerto. His manuscript is the engine that drives the story. …
   When Farringford dies mysteriously after performing the cadenza, the score disappears, too, and it becomes, over time, an icon of desire and a grail. ...
The novel roars into action in Baltimore, where a hapless grad student finds the music in a second-hand shop. But it trundles from Baltimore to New York City and back several times, with an additional short jaunt to St. Croix, in a chain of events that link Farringford’s family, his colleagues and patrons, collectors, musicians, academics, island dwellers—and those privileged few who once heard the cadenza. The privileged include a man who wants to publish it, a man who reveres it as an aphrodisiac, and a ridiculous, vicious man who thinks the cadenza can cure his lard-induced impotence.
   Sutherland calls his novel a spoof of the detective genre, and it does poke good-natured fun at the elements of noir. His Italian gangsters, for example, carry ancient Latin rather than Sicilian last names. His detective [N. F. Trntl], whose name has no vowels at all, eyes the bottom of a barrel before a third of the story is out. Repeated attempts on Trntl’s life become increasingly ludicrous, until she is locked in a pantry, with only canned goods and a mop to protect her, and still wins out over her foes. The message: enjoy the action, folks, because this meditation on desire is embedded in good old-fashioned fun. And the rules dictate that Trntl cannot be killed. That’s not to say that every character is safe from harm. Bad guys buy it in droves, and some of those deaths are guiltily satisfying. A few (relative) innocents are placed in harm’s way—and then harmed. No one is squeaky clean, of course, just as no one is entirely evil. There is room for calamity, regret, and dismay as well as an occasional shout of victory.
   As one who is only a rare reader of thrillers, detective fiction, and noir, I am used to getting lost fairly early in a plotline, stumbling through character outlines and inexplicable events until the end of the story, when the author explains it all for me. Or doesn’t. Sutherland has turned the tables on that tradition, however, by keeping the reader at least vaguely in the know, at least part of the time. I rarely knew where Farringford’s cadenza was at any point in the novel. But I knew more than Scaevola or Trntl or Zzzyznski, who hates people with names from the beginning of the alphabet.
   I had the fun of wanting to shout, “Look behind you!” and “No! Don’t go in there!” I got to chortle, you’re right, but for the wrong reasons. And I got to feel like a teenager by reveling in the grossness of the rich and the powerful: I alone was privy to the complete corruption of some characters and the well-intentioned stupidity of others.
It was a wonderful ride. ...
Nothing else in the recent past has kept me up long past midnight, thinking not one whit about war, foreclosures, campaigns, or my kid’s curfew. I want a sequel, and I want it now. Maybe Sutherland’s got one hidden somewhere safe, in his study….

Sheri Reda is a professional writer, educator, and storyteller living in Chicago. Like the rest of us, she is a slave to her desires.



Excerpts from a review by Karissa Scott of Robert D. Sutherland’s The Farringford Cadenza in BIG MUDDY: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, 8/1 (2008), 136-138.

Sutherland’s unique novel … begins with any artist’s worst nightmare: the loss of an original, unpublished manuscript. In 1947, composer Charles Farringford’s body was found in his train cabin while returning from a concert. The mysterious circumstances surrounding his death are heightened by the disappearances of his traveling companion—a mysterious woman who is not his wife—and the briefcase containing the only copy of his masterpiece cadenza. Was Farringford murdered? who was the woman? Who took the cadenza manuscript? Thirty-four years later, the mystery only deepens when the manuscript is discovered by happenstance in a pawn shop only to be stolen again in a midnight robbery. Two more robbery attempts follow that same night; it’s clear that multiple parties are willing to take drastic measures to retrieve the cadenza. Enter N.F. Trntl, the private detective hired by the music publishers to recover the manuscript, and our connection to this epic mystery. …
[Finding] the cadenza would not only mean fame and fortune for the lucky individual who owns its publishing rights, but its discovery would also make music history. While Farringford was alive, the original cadenza was only performed a few times; since the masterpiece’s disappearance, performers have had to improvise this missing movement of Farringford’s concerto. As one of Trntl’s employers remarks, “’Hearing [the cadenza] was to have been alive.’” …
The mystery of the Farringford Cadenza is not a simple robbery/recovery case. … Once the seemingly simple main themes have been introduced, Sutherland’s novel picks up its tempo, merely growing in its complexity, and doesn’t slow down until the very end. Regaining the cadenza is a race between numerous parties—whether driven by greed, vengeance, or appreciation—and the manuscript changes hands repeatedly like a melody that is passed between instrumental sections in an orchestra. Trntl realizes the dangers … as she drops off a material witness:

Stephanie arrived at her apartment house ashen and perplexed, confused and jittery, and once again on the verge of tears. Trntl waited until she’d unlocked the outer door and disappeared inside. Then she drove to a public telephone booth and called an anonymous tip to the
police that a body would be found four flights up at a certain address on Gobel Street.
Preoccupied with sorting out the events of the day, she got into the car, lit a cigarette and started back to the hotel. She was not too preoccupied to watch the rear-view mirror. Yes, there it was: no doubt about it now. The Cutlass was following her.

The danger only continues to grow, and with every lead comes a series of new questions to be answered. …
The Farringford Cadenza is not your usual mystery novel full of clichés. It appeals to musicians, artists, and anyone who appreciates a well-thought-out detective mystery. Robert D. Sutherland has crafted a greater work here that requires readers to not only keenly observe the complexities of the story but reassess life’s priorities and passions. The novel is like a Romantic symphony that keeps faking its own resolution; just when you think you’ve solved the mystery, the novel teases and turns with an unexpected chord progression. The characters are not stale and contrived, but sincere voices, like solo instruments rising out of glorious harmonies. Once introduced, the simple melodies transform into contrapuntal sections as the case complicates with multiple groups vying for the manuscript, their plans and cover-ups overlapping. Thrilling to the end, the novel’s polyphony of returning themes only serves to enrich what readers may have forgotten, and deepens the significance of the mystery and passion behind the Farringford Cadenza.

— Karissa Scott



Excerpts of a review by Cobalt in Goodreads

“[The Farringford Cadenza is] Very entertaining … hard to put it down. … I read it in three days and laughed all the way through it — not something you expect to find in a mystery novel. I also had flashbacks to "Clue" the game, and saw clever turnabouts of play as the mystery deepened. The characters are quite memorable (especially the villains) and at the end, you'd think you saw a great movie by the way the story reads, so lively.”

— Cobalt, in Goodreads



Excerpts of a review by Aaron P. Lazar in Midwest Book Review, “Reviewer’s Bookwatch: Reviewer’s Choice” (March, 2010)

“As the train slows to a crawl for its scheduled stop at Bristow, Pennsylvania, its cars glide like dark coffins past the lights spaced evenly on poles along the station platform. Eight coaches back from the locomotive, the window of a particular sleeping compartment presents a blank and staring eye to the lights as they tick rhythmically past. Each, in its turn, briefly illuminates the table just inside the window - the highball glasses and overflowing ashtray — the formal dress-suit, with tailed coat, hanging on the wall — the rumpled bed —the body on the bed.

When the train has chuffed to a halt with a rumbling shudder and hissing of steam, a light-pole stands directly opposite the window. Should anyone look in — that porter, say, trundling past with his baggage cart — he'd see, starkly displayed among the tangled bedclothes, a man of middle-age — lean, angular, face-up and stretched full-length in striped pajamas. Left arm bent across the chest; right flung far aside to hang in space. Dark chestnut hair just slightly streaked with gray. Face like putty, gone to sag; backward tilted, mouth agape; eyes slitted upward with a jellied stare.

A closer look: the pajama shirt is wrongly buttoned, the trousers twisted awkwardly askew and backside front."

The Farringford Cadenza is evocative of a deliciously complex British mystery, underpinned with American sass and laced with luscious musical themes. When a rare six-minute piano composition by musical genius Charles Philip Farringford disappears, a nut and shell game extraordinaire begins. After decades of mystery, like a leaf flitting on a playful breeze, the cadenza appears in a piano bench in a dusty old shop, only to be stolen, re-stolen, diverted, hidden, passed around, stolen again, and disappeared, time and time again. Just when you think you know which shell the cadenza is under, the scales tip and the hunt begins anew.

When American composer Charles Farringford dies in bed on a train bound for New York City in 1947, he's discovered dressed with his pajama pants on backwards and his top buttoned wrong. This untimely death follows three rare performances of the hand-written piano cadenza, integral to the fourth movement of Farringford's Fifth Concerto. Performed only to three audiences whose lives were literally changed by the legendary music, powerful enough to bestow stallion-like powers on the impotent, to haunt the lives of those affected, to cause rare collectors to salivate and offer millions for its return, the music disappears on the day the beloved composer dies, only to turn up over thirty-four years later in Baltimore.

With the press agog and musicians stirred up all over the world, music lovers prepare to be thrilled by the cadenza. This life-changing music that propelled listeners to states of rapture when first heard in 1947 is scheduled to be delivered to Lunner and Dinch, the publishers of the original Concerto. The music went to press without the cadenza, but was performed by pianists who've written their own interpretation of the missing movement. But the mystical music is not yet to be heard by the public, for bodies begin to drop with an alarming rate and the cadenza once again disappears.

Detective N. F. Trntl (yes, there are no vowels in her last name), a tough, clever, persistent investigator who can foil the worst villain, is hired by Farringford's family and Lunner and Dinch to find the cadenza and bring it home. She and her assistant, Carol, begin a series of misadventures that have them bouncing between Baltimore and New York, pursued by the Mob and rubbing shoulders with the elite, including spunky and talented pianist Rosamond Foxe, who is lusted after by the rich and powerful Victor Zyzynski and who also is intricately and intimately woven into this delightful mystery. I'll not spoil the plot, but the finale of this masterful novel spirals to a page turning end, moving from St. Croix to New York City, and kept this reviewer up into the wee hours of the morning.

Sutherland's style is professional and polished, his wit delightful, but what I found most intriguing were his character descriptions. For example:

"He was a wizened gnome, extremely short, with an exceedingly thin and pointed nose, the skin of his face cross-hatched with deep lines and creases. Behind rimless lenses, steel-blue eyes stared unblinking; the sphincter of his mouth was a tight pucker. On the table before him, his hands rested plump and pawlike, corrugated with prominent blue veins and freckled with age spots. His nails glistened as if painted with clear lacquer."

And this:

"Fingers was a squat, burly man with large ears, ponderous jowls road-mapped with crimson capillaries, and restless belly-button eyes."

If you like twists and turns, if you've ever been emotionally stirred by music, if you love an intellectual chuckle, or if you're a fan of page-turning chase scenes, you'll find The Farringford Cadenza a delightful read.”

Aaron Paul Lazar





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