“The Violin Conspiracy”

Rayquan McMillian was loved not for his musicianship, his expertise on the violin, but for his façade. He was cute, and Black, and different. The book opens with the worst, most earth-shattering day of Ray McMillian’s life. He opens his violin case, to find it empty; his world implodes.

The narrative goes back in time to answer questions, and readers follow Ray’s life as he grows. The developments that molded him are retold, especially a gift his grandmother gave him. Unfortunately, there is some difficulty with the provenance of that violin. He takes readers on a musical walk through past generations and on a walk past people who are deeply ignorant, impossibly clueless, and definitely need “diversity training.” He, however, loves to play; he loves this music; he loves this violin. He is bigger than all of them, and he is preparing for The Tchaikovsky Competition.

Time gradually moves ahead, back to the opening “incident/theft.”  Now the violin is gone; the music is gone, and he is lonely, guilty, and paralyzed with misery.  The ransom demanded for the violin’s return is huge, unattainable. For police, retrieving a missing violin is like finding a lost dog or a misplaced umbrella. For Rayquan it is his entire existence.  Will this loss destroy him? Who committed this terrible theft? Was it his family? The “other” family who claim it? Black market profiteers? A musical competitor? The suspects are numerous, and everyone has a motive.

I love books with a crime to solve, a mystery, so this is a typical book choice for me. What is unusual is that a single musical instrument was stolen. We love our instruments, our trumpets, flutes, drums, guitars, and would be upset if they were taken just as we would if our car, our watch or other property were stolen. However, this is a violin, a special violin, and a special part of one person’s life. This book shows just how different that can be. I received a review copy of “The Violin Conspiracy” from Brendan Slocumb, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Penguin Random House Publishing, and Anchor Books. It was enlightening, compelling, and riveting on every page.

Music, ownership, reparations, respect