The violin conspiracy

Brendan Slocumb

Book - 2022

"Ray McMillian loves playing the violin 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 his great-grandfather's fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star begins to rise. Then with the international Tchai...kovsky Competition-the Olympics of classical music-fast approaching, his prized family heirloom is stolen. Ray is determined to get it back. But now his family and the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray's great-grandfather are each claiming that the violin belongs to them. With the odds stacked against him and the pressure mounting, will Ray ever see his beloved violin again?"--

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1st Floor New Shelf FICTION/Slocumb, Brendan (NEW SHELF) Due May 24, 2022
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Subjects
Genres
Thrillers (Fiction)
Social problem fiction
Bildungsromans
Novels
Published
New York : Anchor Books 2022.
Language
English
Physical Description
342 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN
9780593315415
0593315413
Main Author
Brendan Slocumb (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Violin prodigy Ray McMillian is preparing for the celebrated Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Two things make Ray unique among the competitors: like only 1.8 percent of musicians performing in classical symphonies, he is Black, and his violin, inherited from his great-great grandfather, who was enslaved on a North Carolina plantation, is a Stradivarius. In the course of this galvanizing blend of thriller, coming-of-age drama, and probing portrait of racism, we learn in flashback how Ray's relatives passed down a beat-up fiddle and how Ray, the first of his family to share his ancestor's love of music, came to learn of the instrument's provenance. But before all that, in the novel's opening pages, the violin is stolen. As Ray frantically works to recover it, he must also deal with being sued by members of his own family, who contest his belief that his grandmother gave the Stradivarius only to him, and by the descendants of the slave owners, who argue that Ray's relative stole the instrument. As Slocumb, himself a Black violinist, describes Ray's apprenticeship, always working twice as hard as his non-Black counterparts, we are drawn completely into this moving story of an unfettered love of music and a passionate commitment to performing it. Skillfully juggling his two timelines, Slocumb builds tension exquisitely while writing about music with both technical precision and richly evocative metaphors. This flawless debut will do for classical music what The Queen's Gambit did for chess. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Asserting himself in a profession that has not proved accepting, Black classical violinist Ray McMillian is thrilled to learn that the instrument he plays—once his great-grandfather's—is actually an invaluable Stradivarius. He's devastated when it's stolen before the all-important Tchaikovsky Competition and further learns that descendants of the family that had enslaved his great-grandfather claim it's theirs. Slocumb knows his strings; an award-winning music educator, he has performed with numerous symphonies and serves as concertmaster for the NOVA Symphony Orchestra, serving Northern Virginia Community College. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT Slocumb, a former principal violinist and concertmaster, manages a delicate balance in his debut. It is a heist story and also an exploration of hope and perseverance in a world that doesn't always reward such. Ray McMillian is a Black virtuoso violinist on the cusp of his biggest challenge yet—competing in a prestigious Russian competition that no American has won before—when his prized Stradivarius violin is stolen. Ray prizes the violin not for its monetary worth, but for the personal connection it gives him to his beloved grandmother. But to others, including Ray's family members and the descendants of the family that once enslaved Ray's ancestors, the violin represents a $10 million payout. Ray is left with is a ransom demand and the realization that no matter the loss, he must work toward winning the Tchaikovsky Competition. VERDICT This novel brings an unflinching eye to the sometimes-cutthroat world of classical music, its very white culture, and the challenges a talented young Black violinist might face in that world. But in Ray, a man who strives toward honor and kindness despite the racist acts (some of them violent) he endures, the story also finds its heart. Strongly recommended.—Jane Jorgenson Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT Slocumb, a former principal violinist and concertmaster, manages a delicate balance in his debut. It is a heist story and also an exploration of hope and perseverance in a world that doesn't always reward such. Ray McMillian is a Black virtuoso violinist on the cusp of his biggest challenge yet—competing in a prestigious Russian competition that no American has won before—when his prized Stradivarius violin is stolen. Ray prizes the violin not for its monetary worth, but for the personal connection it gives him to his beloved grandmother. But to others, including Ray's family members and the descendants of the family that once enslaved Ray's ancestors, the violin represents a $10 million payout. Ray is left with is a ransom demand and the realization that no matter the loss, he must work toward winning the Tchaikovsky Competition. VERDICT This novel brings an unflinching eye to the sometimes-cutthroat world of classical music, its very white culture, and the challenges a talented young Black violinist might face in that world. But in Ray, a man who strives toward honor and kindness despite the racist acts (some of them violent) he endures, the story also finds its heart. Strongly recommended.—Jane Jorgenson Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Black violinist Ray McMillian, the hero of Slocumb's gripping debut, receives a $5 million ransom demand for his Stradivarius violin after the instrument is stolen from his New York City hotel room a few weeks before he's due to perform in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. When the police, the FBI, and the insurance company's investigator hit dead ends, the case comes to a standstill. Flashback to Ray's high school years in Charlotte, N.C., where he must deal with pervasive racism—and his mother nagging him to drop out and get a job. Meanwhile, his grandmother, who supports his musical aspirations, gives him her grandfather's violin. At college, where he receives a full scholarship, Ray endures prejudice from fellow students, and a luthier repairing the heirloom discovers it's a Stradivarius. This revelation leads members of the Marks clan, whose ancestors enslaved Ray's ancestors, to claim the violin belongs to them. Legal battles over the violin's ownership ensue. The tension builds as the competition looms, and Ray struggles to shake off doubts, not get caught in false leads, and focus on finding the missing violin. Slocumb sensitively portrays Ray's resilience in the face of extreme racism. The author is off to a promising start. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management. (Feb.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

When, right before the cutthroat Tchaikovsky Competition – the Olympics of classical music, his priceless Stradivarius is stolen, with a ransom note for five million dollars in its place, Ray McMillian must piece together the clues to reclaim the violin before it’s too late.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Ray McMillian loves playing the violin 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 his great-grandfather's fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star begins to rise. Then with the international Tchaikovsky Competition-the Olympics of classical music-fast approaching, his prized family heirloom is stolen. Ray is determined to get it back. But now his family and the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray's great-grandfather are each claiming that the violin belongs to them. With the odds stacked against him and the pressure mounting, will Ray ever see his beloved violin again?"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK! • Ray McMillian is a Black classical musician on the rise—undeterred by the pressure and prejudice of the classical music world—when a shocking theft sends him on a desperate quest to recover his great-great-grandfather’s heirloom violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.“I loved The Violin Conspiracy for exactly the same reasons I loved The Queen’s Gambit: a surprising, beautifully rendered underdog hero I cared about deeply and a fascinating, cutthroat world I knew nothing about—in this case, classical music.” —Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant and Hour of the WitchGrowing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. But Ray has a gift and a dream—he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way. Not his mother, who wants him to stop making such a racket; not the fact that he can’t afford a violin suitable to his talents; not even the racism inherent in the world of classical music.  When he discovers that his beat-up, family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach, and together, Ray and his violin take the world by storm. But on the eve of the renowned and cutthroat Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—the violin is stolen, a ransom note for five million dollars left in its place. Without it, Ray feels like he's lost a piece of himself. As the competition approaches, Ray must not only reclaim his precious violin, but prove to himself—and the world—that no matter the outcome, there has always been a truly great musician within him.