The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb is a mystery/thriller I picked up just for fun, but this novel is SO much more than a mystery! The Violin Conspiracy is a debut novel that explores the world of classical music, especially in regards to performance and competitions. It also brings alive the racism that still abounds in our world in ways that may surprise you. (Slocumb is a music teacher/performer and some of the events in the novel were taken from his life experiences.)
Ray McMillan is a poor, teenage violinist who dreams of making a living with his violin. He is discouraged by society and also by most of his family. His beautiful, loving, grandmother Nora is the only one who sees his passion and encourages his playing. Nora gives Ray a beat-up fiddle that belonged to his Pop-Pop. As the novel continues, the violin is found to be a Stradivarius and is valued at millions of dollars. And then – the violin is stolen – right before an important competition . . . and Ray doesn’t know if he can play without Pop-Pop’s violin . . .
I really loved the character of Ray McMillan. I felt like he was up against the world – even his family seemed to be against him. Everyone who was a suspect in the theft of Ray’s violin was greedy and self-serving, and Ray just wanted to play his violin for the love of playing. There are a range of suspects – a housekeeper, Ray’s family, a fellow competitor and the Marks family, who owned Ray’s ancestor as a slave. I did figure out the mystery before the end, but I still was so engaged with this novel! The music world is presented so accurately and the characters are written with heart and feeling. (There is quite a bit of rough language, and there is an excerpt about slavery that is very graphic and violent – but accurate and important to the story.) I highly recommend The Violin Conspiracy!!!