Ray McMillian loves to play violin. While his mother preferred that he leave his high school in Charlotte, North Carolina early, get his GED, work at the local Popeyes and contribute to the family, Ray stayed true to his belief that he was destined to become a professional violinist. With some very supportive people behind him, Ray was able to develop his talent. This was not without facing horrendous prejudice. How could a Black man have the ability to play classical music? His loving Grandma Nora gave Ray the greatest gift. In addition to her belief in him, she gave Ray her father’s fiddle, an instrument he played as a slave. His former master Thomas Marks gifted it to him when he was given his freedom.
Early on in this riveting book, we learn in the present-day timeline that this old, beat- up instrument is actually a rare and very valuable Stradivarius. As Ray is preparing to compete in Moscow at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, his violin is stolen with a $5 million ransom demanded for its return. To complicate matters, the Marks family is claiming ownership of the violin.
In an impressive debut, author Brendan Slocumb has created a moving story that is part coming-of-age and part mystery. Drawing from his own background as a professional violinist and music instructor, we are treated to a story that is thoroughly engaging. Ray is truly a character to root for. While faced with continued obstacles, there’s a sense that nothing is going to stop this talented and driven young man. The ongoing incidents of racism reveal a shameful reality which is magnified by a profession where musicians of color are severely underrepresented. The writing is lyrical, the story is wonderful.
Many thanks to Anchor Books / Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Violin Conspiracy in advance of its publication.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Literary Fiction / Mystery.
Publication Date: February 1, 2022.
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