Cover Image: The Violin Conspiracy

The Violin Conspiracy

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Member Reviews

The books relates the story of Ray, a boy who had to fight against his family, society to become a professional violinist. It started with the stealing of his violin given to him by his grandmother and that belonged to his great-great-grandfather a freed slave. The missing violing fact is an excuse to relate what he had to live to fulfill his dream.
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I received permission to read this arc on 4/15/22,  I appreciate being granted access to the book, but I already finished listening to the audiobook on 2/9/22.  I loved it.  It combined a good mystery, great character development, and some interesting information about classical music.  The story examines stereotypes and has a main character who is passionate about music.  I would recommend this book/audiobook to anyone!
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The Violin Conspiracy mixes a mystery with a compelling story of family, history and the creative journey of Ray, our resident violin prodigy. I was intrigued by the synopsis and the book definitely lived up to it and more. I don’t think I’ve read a novel which explores the classical music world and from the perspective of being a young Black artist in these spaces which are predominantly white.

I thought the most striking part of this novel and what really made me love this book was the character of Ray himself. We get to read as he grows from a sweet young boy to a talented man and how he consistently pushes towards his dream of being a violinist, despite those around him trying to bring him down. It's such an intimate portrait of what it means to pursue your dream despite all the background noise and it was a pleasure to read.

Ironically, the weakest part of the novel has to be the whole mystery surrounding the violin - I found myself intrigued at the beginning which became less so as the novel progressed. While this is the central conflict in a sense it's also not as big a deal as you might expect from the synopsis.
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Mystery | Adult
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Ray McMillian is a talented Black violinist preparing to compete in the prestigious international Tchaikovsky competition, when someone steals his precious violin. The one his beloved grandmother gave him, that belonged to her grandfather, a slave who received it from his master when he was freed. The one no one else wanted to learn to play until Ray picked up a school violin and fell in love with its sound. (“Making all that noise,” his demanding mother says with derision, wanting him to take a job and pay her some rent instead of going to college.) When Grandma Nora gave him the violin, it was dusty, warped, and needed repair, but it was Ray’s. And, it turned out, it was extremely valuable. A Stradivarius. So when the violin is stolen, the insurance company steps in with its own detectives, along with the FBI, looking to find the culprits and return the instrument. Meanwhile, somehow, Ray has to keep practising for the competition, knowing racism means he has to work twice as hard to earn a place in the competition. But he reminds himself of Grandma Nora’s advice: “You stand up, you respect yourself, and you be respectful. That’s how you win.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure how interesting a violin theft would be, but oh how wrong I was. This a riveting, multilayered mystery, packed with motives and clues along with painful and complex family dynamics, determination and self-loathing, and the importance of kindness and offers of help. It’s modern, it’s fast-paced, and it’s brutally honest. As a high school music educator, author Slocumb’s expertise is evident, delivered with just the right balance of detail and nuance. I learned so much about music, but in a way that felt natural rather than instructive perhaps because so much of this story is his own. His afterword is loaded with thank yous – a humble teacher who has, I hope, a lot more stories in him. I thoroughly enjoyed this! My thanks to Anchor Books for the digital reading copy provided in exchanged for my honest review. There’s also a copy in the Grand Forks (B.C.) & District Public Library’s large-print collection, as well as its e-book collection.
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A compelling whodunnit that studies attitudes about race, achievement, and property. I was rooting for Ray to triumph over the theft of his Stradivarius.
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While the mystery element is a bit obvious (and really secondary), this was a refreshing read for me as it exposed me to a world I know little about. I am excited to see it getting deserved atgention.
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Ray is a very successful concert violinist who is getting ready for a prestigious international competition when his precious, incredibly valuable violin is stolen from his hotel room.  Solving this crime is one part of the story that is very propulsive and suspenseful.  The police get involved as does a private investigator and also Ray can’t help but try to solve it himself.  The other story is the violin itself, how it came to be in Ray’s family, how Ray got it from his grandmother and how family relationships can become fractured and strained when one member has financial success or seems to at least.  Family drama and suspense with a bit of a love story thrown in, this book is fantastic!!  4.5/5
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Good God What mother wants her kid to quit to school, get a GED to work at Popeyes Fried Chicken? Does she have a soul ? How can a musician at this level not know what a Stradivarius  is or looks like? So far fetched and I’m sort of shocked someone called this compelling too. Maybe he would have had better luck going on Antiques Roadshow. 

It was not at all what I expected. Going through a little history lesson and then the racism. I was completely over it.  I didn't want to learn of his grandfather or his slave history. I wouldn't have picked this up had I known it would be like this. 

It is disjointed and clumsy leaving me as the  reader shaking my head. If something is this valuable why are you walking all carefree around Manhattan with it ? Makes me just think what the heck am I reading. What a disappointment. The author goes on to describe how the "fiddle" was stored in her attic. OK well I know North Carolina is a damp place at least 1/3 of the year. Southern summers are hot, humid and no way a "fiddle" could be stored in an attic and be worth anything other thank scrap wood after 3 generations. Sort of insulting our intelligence. .
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Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher/author for providing me with an e-copy in exchange for my honest review.

This book was exactly what I wanted it to be! I loved it. I will make sure to check out other books by this author. When I requested this I was just intrigued by the concept of it and I loved how it turned out. This story had a great plot and if you have read this and enjoyed it, This was so much. It was such a great story. I would say give this one a try. I will continue to follow this author. Way to go to this author for not letting me down.
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As a violinist myself, I'm intrigued with the whole book (the blurbs and cover) and I got the book. It's basically a mystery book about this priceless Stradivarius that went missing (someone took it and it held for millions dollar ransom) and our MC, Ray McMillian now is searching for who might be the real culprit while also having his own struggle in this world. The depiction of racism is on the point. 
Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for the ARC of this book!

Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job at the hospital cafeteria. If he’s extra lucky, he’ll earn more than minimum wage. 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 great-great-grandfather’s beat-up old fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach. 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. Ray will have to piece together the clues to recover his treasured Strad ... before it’s too late.
With the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-great-grandfather asserting that the instrument is rightfully theirs, and with his family staking their own claim, Ray doesn’t know who he can trust—or whether he will ever see his beloved violin again.
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It took me a while to get into this story, as I was expecting more focus on the mystery - which there is, but initially Slocumb has to provide backstory to who Ray McMillian is.  It's this backstory that is the novel's strength, as we get to know Ray and walk with him as he overcomes obstacles ranging from poverty and racism to lack of family support on his road to becoming a world-class performance violinist.  The mystery of how he ends up with the Stradivarius is almost more compelling than finding out who stole it.  There are no loose ends; this won't be a series, which makes me a bit sad, but I do look forward to reading Slocumb's next novel.
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Absolutely, this is now one of my top 5 books ever read!  I could not put it down. I was immediately drawn in from the first sentence and I'm in LOVE with Rayquan !  Brendan Slocumb has written the perfect book, imbibed with humor, a truly screwed up family, and oh! that Mother...I just want to "hit her upside the head"!, a valuable Stradivarius, with its own problems - namely being so valuable, and in all, just a fabulous and interesting, can't put it down, story. Thank you to NetGalley and to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for the ePub. WHAT A BOOK!
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“Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job at the hospital cafeteria. If he’s extra lucky, he’ll earn more than minimum wage…”  ~Anchor Books partial Synapsis

However, Ray had a gift, it started when he was in high school, it didn’t stand out like the other kids in his orchestra class, it was hidden, it was looked down upon by his family, however, Ray wasn’t a quitter. His gift was played on a school rental, it was overlooked because of the color of his skin. Kids in the orchestra were cruel, as kids can be to anyone, especially to someone who doesn’t fit the mold of what someone is supposed to look like to love and excel at classical music. Ray’s gift created a dream in him. One his mother especially belittled. Luckily, Ray had someone who loved him, supported him, and saw the specialness of not only Ray’s gift but also of Ray as a whole — his grandma, Nora. She was one in a million! She was his cheerleader, his inspiration, and his positive role model. His grandma had a gift too, which she gave to Ray one Christmas covered with “Good Luck Dust”. The Violin Conspiracy is Ray’s story, his progression, his trials, the bigoted-ness of other musicians, patrons, store owners, and yes, even police officers which in Ray’s world is nothing new, and yet, never gets easier to handle or understand. As grandma Nora advises, “Work twice as hard as everyone else, stand tall and treat others with respect, and stay the same ‘sweet Ray’ that she loved so much.” 

As a daughter of a Violinist, and a dabbler in classical piano myself, I can not even fathom how my father would’ve handled being without his violin if it was stolen. I imagine he would’ve been devastated. His music would’ve been lacking some semblance of his soul. He might have even stopped playing all together without that other extremity connected to his left arm, hand, and chin. His violin is unique, however, it’s definitely not the jewel that was hidden under a ton of Rosin like Ray’s violin. 

The Violin Conspiracy was filled with so much racial profiling by those who knew, met or even glanced in Ray’s direction.  I found it disgusting and tragic.  This is not about the author’s writings, this was a human disgust. A struggle inside my own soul to understand how anyone could feel this way towards another human being.  Ray’s struggles and successes were frustratingly beautiful as he tried to find a path to his one dream — to be a professional violinist.

“…Ray will have to piece together the clues to recover his treasured Strad . . . before it’s too late. With the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-great-grandfather asserting that the instrument is rightfully theirs, and with his family staking their own claim, Ray doesn’t know who he can trust–or whether he will ever see his beloved violin again.”  ~Anchor Books Partial Synapsis

I was so inspired by Ray’s performances in my mind that I had to search out and listened to every Classical, and Jazz song that was mentioned in the book. I thank, Author Brendan Slocum for adding so much beautiful, emotional listening to my week. I think my co-workers were sick and tired of my playlist even though they learned a lot about culture. Some who had never listened to classical music had to admit it was “moving” and “soothing” and a lot more “enjoyable” than they ever thought it could be. I smiled and said, “You’re Welcome”. 

The writing, as expected is lyrical, moving, and brings in so much bass (low notes) and treble (high notes) you feel as if you are in the midst of a composer, composing a musical masterpiece. Which is exactly what Mr. Slocumb does. Some of the experiences Ray experiences are what Mr. Slocum himself went through. It definitely is timely and spurs such great discussions for a book club to pick up and read.

“Music is for everyone. It’s not—or at least shouldn’t be—an elitist, aristocratic club that you need a membership card to appreciate it’s a language, it’s a means of connecting us that is beyond color, beyond race, beyond the shape of your face or the size of your stock portfolio.”  

The Violin Conspiracy
 When talking to a Black friend of mine, I asked him if he had read the book, he hadn’t, and I asked him if he would.  I knew he had his own rude experiences in life and when it came to trying to excel at his own musical journey. He read The Violin Conspiracy, then we had another discussion about race and living in the 21st Century. He explained to me that so much of his journey echoed that of Ray’s when it came to the condescending comments, looks, experiences, and expectations of what he would play at his own performances at cafes and pubs, however being in Utah it was done in a less obvious way.  It broke my heart and yet, didn’t surprise me at all. How have we not moved past seeing someone for their character instead of skin color in the year 2022?

I have to admit that The Violin Conspiracy is my favorite book read in the last six months. I recommend it to whoever will listen to me talk about its storyline without ruining the story itself. Because of that I know there are a lot of readers out there that will read this book that might not have without that recommendation as it’s not some RomCom. If you love a good mystery, a good realistic story, and a story that will uplift you, bring some beauty and emotion to your life The Violin Conspiracy is what you should be reading next. 

“You’re Welcome.”
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I received the Violin Conspiracy as an advance copy, thank you NetGalley. This book is one of my favorites of the year so far. It had so many layers and complexities and was so well written, with real-life characters and a fast-moving story that kept me glued to the page. It is basically about Ray McMillian, a young black man who is a passionate and talented violin player. He faces struggles in his music career, including family opposition, and especially racism. I absolutely love that the author wrote from a personal perspective, also being a black man in the classical music field, because the outrageous experiences Ray faced all had a strong feeling of reality. The author also mentions the very low percentages of black people in the classical musical field. The racism is presented in a matter-of-fact way not meant to shock, but to reveal, and provides another layer or awareness. An additional layer is a mystery, because Ray’s violin is stolen. There are many suspects and the book kept me guessing who was responsible. The most important and heartfelt storyline to me, though, was the strong connection Ray had to his grandmother, and through her, to his ancestors. The love, strength and support his grandmother gave Ray was vital to his success as a violinist, and most importantly, as an influence on shaping him to be an honest, kind, resilient strong black man. I felt that every layer of this story worked and supported each other, and I would highly recommend this book.
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The Violin Consspiracy rocks! I absolutely loved it.  The writing is superb. The plotting is amazing.  Obviously Mr  Slocumb  did a lot of research   and is well  versed on the  details  which makes the story more realistic. Characters  are  believable . The twist at the end... That idea  flickered in my mind earlier  but the author went in another direction which was pretty smart.  because it stopprd me thinking about tte other idea until it emerged and by then I was  wanting it not to be true. 

I love Ray. He is so cute and quirky sometimes and  he took his grandmother's advice and learned to cope as a young black  man in a world that was hostile  to him being  a part of the white  world..  It was great to see him stand up for himself..  He had good people  who helped him survive in that world, which is a good thing,

 I didn't  like his family much.  Even after he became successful his mama and his uncles  was still skeptical  but they had no problem taking Ray's  money.

The novel worked for me on so many levels. It is a great mystery and I love mysteries.    It is set in the classical music world which I was part of a.long time and could relate to that life.  And it is about our American culture and diversity in the workplace which needs ro be addressed a lot more.  The fact that tte author experienced many of  the  incidents in the book makes it clear America has  a long way to go  combating racism.  The scene at the wedding was heartbreaking enough  but the scene in Baton Rouge and  Boston was a million times worse.  It has become way too common and needs to stop.    I don't know how  people could treat another person like that because of the color of their skin.   Grandma'Nora's letter dictated by Lein will break your heart but it needed to be said for many reasons.  

.I really hope that people will take more from The Violin Conspiracy  than it is a good  mystery  novel about a stolen priceless violin.  (as good as that story is)  It is also  about diversity and not putting limits on who is s worthy of succes,  It is giving respect to all and 
Live and Let Live or following The Golden Rule of Love your neighbor as you  love yourself.  Be sure to read the author's  note at tte end. It has a lot of good information and insights about  the book and his life.
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On the surface, this story seems like your run-of-the-mill whodunit about the theft of a priceless piece of artwork, in this case a rare violin.  But the blatant racism, classism, and family drama make this story a lot more relevant. I was drawn to this story because it's the first story about a black classical musician I've seen since The Soloist. I saw the movie and read the book. That was over 10 years ago. So, I couldn't pass this book up. 

What I loved most about this book was its honest and critical look at racism in classical music. Ray’s journey was somewhat familiar. He was black, poor, and talented. The discrimination he faced was horrible but familiar. That wedding scene was difficult to read. I admired his resilience and resented the fact that had to be twice as tough as the other, whiter, musicians. 

The mystery wasn’t all that mysterious, at least not to me. I guessed the culprit on my first try, but I still enjoyed the journey. The author wrote so passionately about the music, compelling me to listen to my favorite classical playlist as I read so that I could fully immerse myself in the story. The story starts with the theft and the initial investigation, then jumps back several to Ray’s high school days. The time jumps were easy to follow and each jump provided another piece of the puzzle, steadily building tension. As the story neared its conclusion, I found myself eagerly devouring every word, impatient to see Ray reunited with his beloved violin. 

I think this book will appeal to so many, whether they like classical or not. 

I received this ARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Another solid mystery from Knopf, this time featuring a Black virtuoso violinist who inherited a fiddle through his family which turns out to be a rare Stradivarius. He’s getting ready for a Tchaikovsky competition when the treasured violin is stolen. 

The story then weaves together two strands - the story of the search for the violin and the story of the violin itself and the enslaved people who played it and provided music on demand for white people. While the mystery of the theft was a little weak (I figured out who it was early on), I was struck by the origin story of the fiddle. The enslaved people who played it and sang for their captors were treated as instruments themselves - not as people but as things. The gift of music was one thing that could not be taken away and seeing how that gift had traveled through the generations was very satisfying.
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Music, ownership, reparations, respect

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.
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I wasn’t sure what to expect going into THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY by Brendan Slocumb, but let’s just say I was impressed and then some. The first 15% gives thriller vibes, but then the story shifts to a more reflective story of young Ray’s journey. The beginning of the novel propels us into the story with no precursor, and we feel as frazzled as Ray does when he discovers his rare and acclaimed violin has been stolen right from under his nose. I was initially put off by the pacing in the beginning, but I can appreciate why it was executed in the manner that it was.

I enjoyed 17-year-old Ray’s perspective and enthusiasm, and appreciably how we’re shown Ray and the violin’s journey: we start close to the end, then jump to the beginning and are given context. This look into Ray’s journey and experiences make the beginning even more panic inducing.

Slocumb did an excellent job showing Ray’s understanding of balancing his talent, his luck, and his Blackness on a daily basis and this was incredibly affirming to see. Also, for those without an musical training, don’t worry; this book is def accessible for those without any classical music or choir training.
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The Violin Conspiracy was so much more than what I expected. In a VERY good way! At it's core, the story of Ray, a young black man who loves to play classical music on the violin. It's coming of age and sticking to what you love even when those around you try to dissuade you and don't understand you.  And very few people understand a young black man playing violin. 

It's a mystery, after Ray acquires a family heirloom from his grandmother, his family members don't think he should have it, especially when they find out it's worth a lot of money.  Then, it's stolen and the search is on for who could have stolen the violin that Ray rarely lets out of his sight. 

It's about the music! I'm not a fan of classical music and admit I didn't understand all the musical descriptions but the way Brendan Slocumb described Ray's playing, I swear I could feel it myself. Music is Ray's life and I could feel his passion.

Racism is real. Ray was taught by his grandmother, the only one who encouraged his playing, to always be respectful even in the face of discrimination. That doesn't stop unpleasant people from making Ray's life tougher. And, it doesn't stop the police from arresting him on trumped up charges. 

I was on such a high when I finished this book! There are parts that are sad and maddening but Slocumb does such a good job of taking us into Ray's life and mind that it didn't bring me down, it lifted me up. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the copy in exchange for this honest review.
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