“Alone, we are a solitary violin, a lonely flute, a trumpet singing in the dark. Together, we are a symphony.” Brendan Slocumb, The Violin Conspiracy.
Black violin prodigy Ray McMillian loves playing more than anything, and nothing will stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional musician. Not his mother, who thinks he should get a real job, not the fact that he can’t afford a high-caliber violin, not the racism inherent in the classical music world. And when he makes the startling discovery that the violin he inherited from his great-grandfather, a freed slave, is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star rises. Then, on the eve of the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, his prized instrument is stolen.
The Violin Conspiracy is a highly original debut; in fact, I can’t think of another book I’ve ever read about classical music. Part thriller, part coming-of-age, racial commentary, it is a fascinating look at professional classical music by an author who knows what he’s talking about. Brendan Slocum served as the concertmaster for the University Symphony orchestra and principal violist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has been a public and private school K-12 music educator for over twenty-three years.
Although I enjoyed learning more about classical music, the violin in particular, Slocum got into too much detail about playing the instrument. His writing was solid, and he a did fine job managing a dual timeline, but he could use a bit more polishing, and a little more showing instead of telling. One aspect of Ray’s character was frustrating. At times he sounded like a kid from the “hood,” full of street-laced slang and cuss words, but then he would be suddenly articulate. His swearing and childish thoughts/comments were unnecessary and detracted from his intelligent character. I figured out the mystery long before it was revealed, it was a wonderful read by a talented author all the same. Recommended. 4 stars.
Published Date: February 2022
Genre: Literary Fiction, African American Fiction
Read-alikes: Harlem Shuffle by, Colson Whitehead, The Queen’s Gambit, by Walter Tevis, The Bridgetower Sonata by Emmanuel Dongala, Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton.