A $10 million Stradivarius violin has gone missing. Will Ray McMillian be able to pay the ransom in time to compete in the world’s biggest classical music competition?
Find out in this musical mystery studded with family history and high aspirations.
Ray McMillian is a young Black man whose love of music might be his way out of a life of poverty and low-wage jobs. His mother pressures him to graduate early in order to start working to contribute to the family finances. His grandmother encourages him to pursue the violin. Torn between two lives, Ray makes the choice of a lifetime: to play music for a career.
He learns the downsides to being a minority in a white-dominated arena, and there are too many to count.
The plotline starts in the present time with the theft of the violin to set the scene. It then jumps back to Ray’s senior year of high school. He’s playing a borrowed violin from the school and struggling to make ends meet. After a successful audition and performance, he’s offered a full-ride scholarship to college to learn how to play classical violin.
A Black professor takes him under her wing and he is soon introduced to the competitive world of classical music.
Racism and discrimination are presented well by the author. Unfortunately, race is obviously a factor in the way people of color are treated, even in today’s America. It is incredibly important for authors like Slocumb to be real and honest about racism in the context of current society, and that was achieved here. Ray faces discrimination from random people, music store owners, and other musicians.
Of course, he also faces extreme racism from the book’s ‘big bads’: The Marks family. The Marks once owned Ray’s great-great-great-grandfather as a slave. When the violin is revealed to be worth a fortune, the family claims that Ray’s family stole it from theirs when they were freed as slaves.
Ray will do anything to keep his precious violin. But threats from family, enemies, and an unknown thief will make that more challenging than winning an international competition.
What would you do if your family only saw you as a paycheck? What would you do if they blamed you for stealing the family treasure?
I really enjoyed this book. Slocumb is a music teacher and a musician, so he really nails the finer aspects of musicality.
The biggest downside is that the writing is a bit dry and slow. The idea of action seems to be enough, but the text doesn’t provide tension or buildup. I didn’t feel a big climax, even at the final reveal about the violin. It was a bit anticlimactic.
I did like the combination of mystery and music. The theft of a prized musical instrument seems fresh and new.
The Violin Conspiracy is Brendan Slocumb’s first book.
If you’re interested in hearing some classical music like what is played in the book, check out these selections below:
Paganini- Caprice No. 24
Tchaikovsky- Violin Concerto in D Major
Pachelbel- Canon in D Major