Cover Image: The Violin Conspiracy

The Violin Conspiracy

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Member Reviews

A complex mystery, with an interesting main character. I read it so long ago, though, that I can't remember details to provide background.
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The Good Morning America book club pick is a fast summer read for adults and YA looking for drama, mystery, and a rare glimpse into the contemporary world of classical music. From the point of view of a poor Black boy in rural North Carolina, roadblocks to his dream come from all parts of his life, from his own family to his great great grandfatherʻs slave ownerʻs descendants.

His gift and dream are invisible or unappreciated by everyone but his grandmother who gives him her grandfatherʻs fiddle. When they find out that this heirloom is actually a Stradivarius, everyone comes out of the wood work claiming ownership. And then itʻs stolen and held for ransom. 

Ray's downward spiral starts at the realization that his violin has been stolen and it leads him to depression and madness while still trying to raise money for the ransom.  In between chasing down leads, Ray continues to prepare (on a different violin)  for the Tchaikovsky Competition, an international competition where only one American pianist has won and no Black musician has ever won. This is a tight read of invisibility, racism, greed and loneliness.

From the Publisher:

Growing 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.

Author: Brendan Slocumb
Publisher: Anchor
Publication date: February 1, 2022
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The Violin Conspiracy is an outstanding debut novel about racism in the classical music world and a stolen heirloom violin. It is clear that the author has an educational background in music. This is a story about much more than a stolen violin. We witness discrimination, racism, micro-aggressions, and the slave history in the main character's family. This was an incredibly well-written and thought-provoking novel with an intriguing concept at the center of the plot. Highly recommended!!
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This is a sad story. I would love to hear this guy play. I’m musically inclined, able to play woodwind instruments, but I can’t play string instruments at all. 

The racism and horrible family this man had to endure because he loved to play the violin is ridiculous. No human should have to deal with this on a daily basis. I know it happens, I’m not blind or ignorant, but I still believe no one should be treated this way. 

This book is is a great example of how people are profiled just on the color of their skin rather than their actions. My husband wants our 11 yr old son to read this so he’s aware of how cruel the world can be. 

I highly recommend this book.
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🎻 “Until then, he'd been a solitary, lonely kid and then a solitary, lonely man - who had had one special person in his life, dressed in a pink housecoat and smelling of lavender and bluing solution in her hair. She had gone, but she had given him music, and music had filled his world, that allowed him to connect with people in a way that he sometimes could not believe could ever be real. But now she was gone, and the violin had gone, and the music had gone, and he felt so lonely and guilty now that he often thought the misery would paralyze him and he would simply, suddenly, stop breathing under the weight of it."

What a fun book! I’ve been playing the violin for 16 years so as soon as I heard about this new release, I knew I had to pick it up. Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel tells the story of Ray, a Black professional violinist, and the theft of his family heirloom Stradivarius.

While the book is marketed as a mystery - and there is the “conspiracy” aspect of the theft - it is really more of an ode to the power of music, family, and perseverance. Slocumb uses personal anecdotes from his decades as a Black violinist to write Ray’s experiences with racism and preconceived notions about who classical music is and is not made for.

I really enjoyed this read - it brought me through a range of emotions and still give that little thrill of a mystery solved at the end!
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Tragically beautiful story about music, race and passion. This book has a lot of musical background, which I found interesting, but for me it was the story of the characters that kept me invested. Well done!
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I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley.

Ray is a Black classical musician...a rarity in that industry. He faces discrimination, not only in the music world, but as he travels around to various concert venues. He inherits a beat-up violin from his grandmother. Imagine his surprise and delight when he discovers that the violin is actually a Stradivarius! Then...imagine his anguish when he discovers that his prize instrument has been stolen and he has to compete using an inferior violin!

Melding the author's true life experiences and love of music with a fictional mystery, this book is a real page turner. It covers issues from slavery to current discrimination, family problems, and inheritance battles. Each incident is told with clarity and compassion.
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The Violin Conspiracy was a bit of a slow burn for me, but I appreciated the author’s passion for music and was introduced to the racism that exists in classical music.  I felt it lacked in the “mystery” department, as it was pretty clear who the villain was early on. The real story for me was in the relationship between Ray and his family and also the relationship he had with music. Seeing him persevere through hard experiences for his love of music and his violin kept me engaged and entertained.
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A mystery that was so well written. It took me a few times to start this one as I keep putting it down for another book but once I got into the book at 1/3 way through I was completely into the story. A great mystery.
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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
<cover image>
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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