Very few people thought Black violinist Ray McMillian could succeed, certainly not his mother, who cared more about the money he could bring home to support her and her other children, or the other teens in the high school orchestra, or even the teachers assigned to mentor Ray into the world of classical music. But his grandmother believed in him, and she gave him a family fiddle, once used to entertain slaveholders and give solace to the enslaved. When he receives the instrument, it is so broken down, he can’t play it, but once completely restored, he learns that the violin is a famed Stradivarius.
With newfound confidence, Ray embarks on the world of professional music and decides to enter the Tchaikovsky Competition—a ruthless tournament that favors Europeans. He spends a year training, and just as he is poised to leave for Russia, his priceless Stradivarius is stolen, with a ransom note for five million dollars left in its case.
Ray suspects his own family—who believe they have a stake in the musical instrument and would rather have a pay out than let Ray play with it—or the slaveholders who gifted it to his great-great-grandfather but now claim it was stolen. Regardless, neither the authorities nor the investigator hired by the insurance company can find a lead, and Ray despairs of gathering the ransom money before the deadline. If he doesn’t solve the mystery and get his violin back, he worries that no other instrument will give him the same magic, and his distraction leading up to the competition becomes a self-perpetuating wound.
THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY was one of my favorite reads of the year, and while the mystery of the stolen violin was gripping, to me it wasn’t the best part of the book. A musician and music teacher himself, Brenden Slocumb describes Ray’s process of creating music more vividly than in any other book I can remember reading, and that made not just the book but also the musical piece more layered. Ray also describes instances where he is subjected to sickening instances of racism or racial profiling that sadly Slocumb based on his own experiences. But Ray’s success and his ways of encouraging other people of color to explore classical music—despite resistance—speak to the character’s resilience and the need within the book and in real life to support music education and access to it to diverse children.
What a great book and I highly recommend that everyone should read this. It’s a page turner from the start to the end. Give it your time and read it! Thank you for writing such a great book!
Did not like this story. It lacked details and was hard to get into. I would not recommend this one but would try the next if there is more to come
Violinist Ray McMillian is preparing for the world’s most prestigious contest for young musicians, the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, when his prized violin is stolen. A single athletic shoe sits in its case, along with a note demanding a $5 million ransom, payable in Bitcoin.
How did a Black violinist from North Carolina, who constantly has to fight to be taken seriously, wind up with a $10 million Stradivarius in the first place? And who could have stolen it? The suspects include greedy, grasping members of Ray’s own family and some descendants of a 19th-century slave owner.
After the instrument’s disappearance, we flash back to Ray’s childhood, as he discovers his love of music and has his first real run-ins with racism. (Lest anyone think these anecdotes are too over the top, Brendan Slocumb reveals in an author’s note at the end of the book that all of the outrageous things that happen to Ray in the book are drawn from his own real-life experiences.) I felt the hundred pages of backstory slowed the plot’s momentum a bit, even as I recognized the importance of establishing Ray’s relationship with his instrument.
Finally, we return to the present day, where Ray must be both sleuth and musician as he preps for the Russian competition. The company which insured the violin has hired a private art detective to follow up on any leads, but Ray can’t just let her do her job without getting involved himself. Will he be able to focus on the contest, playing on a rented violin, while the loss of his cherished Strad looms large?
Slocumb is a musician and educator who wrote The Violin Conspiracy during the pandemic, a time when he wasn’t able to perform or teach. The importance of mentoring and supporting the next generation of young musicians, particularly those who don’t come from privileged backgrounds, is a major theme of the book; not every aspiring violinist will have the opportunity to play a Stradivarius or perform at Carnegie Hall, but no one should be denied the chance to pursue their passion for music.
"The Violin Conspiracy" is a gorgeous, fast-paced, heart-filled book. I see now what all the fuss is about. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. #TheViolinConspiracy #NetGalley
The Violin Conspiracy is an exceptional book. It takes you through the worlds of interesting family dynamics mixed in with the predominantly white world of classical music. How does the lead character Ray McMillian fit into the different worlds he has to inhabit throughout the book and how do those worlds impact him and the choices he has to make? Next mix in an heirloom violin that once belonged to Ray's great-great-grandfather that turns out to be a Stradivarius and suddenly has the family that owned his family claiming ownership and then follow along as the priceless violin is stolen and Ray and others work to get it back. What a story. I highly recommend it.
The book is also a great book club selection and the music referenced in the book is also stunning to listen to as an added bonus.
This month, it was my turn to pick the book for the #literarylovelies! I chose The Violin Conspiracy by @brendanslocumb! We have read a lot of really good books with the lovelies, but I have to say this is one of my all time favorites!
Ray McMillan isn’t your typical violinist; he has had very little formal training… and he’s Black. But he had a dream and a passion for music from a young age. He starts out be renting a school violin and eventually his grandmother gifts him her grandfather’s fiddle! That’s Ray’s great great grandfather who was a slave on a Southern Plantation. This fiddle becomes Ray’s prized profession and he gets it cleaned up, but it still needs work. His family is not supportive and thinks music is a waste of time. As Ray progresses though HS, he gets recruited by a college scout and receives a full scholarship to college. Here he meets his lifelong mentor and friend, Dr Janice Stevens.
Janice encourages him and he begins to enter competitions, he gets his fiddle professionally cleaned up and it’s discovered that his fiddle is actually a priceless Italian Stradivarius violin. He becomes famous for both his skills and his violin and he tours the country doing concerts. But one day his violin goes missing and there’s a ransom note in the case. His family has fought over the violin since they found out how much it was worth. There is also the family that Ray’s great great Who stole Ray’s violin?
There’s so much more to this story. Ray has to deal with a ton of racism and people just expecting the worse of him. I can’t get over how many people are racist directly to his face! I couldn’t get over how his mother didn’t support him, but his grandma Nora was a true gem and inspired him not only as a musician, but to be a good and respectful person.
There’s so much more to this book, but it’s an absolute must read. The author’s note is also incredible, explaining so much about what happened was true and that he rest is a violinist that a lot occurred in his real life. I’m so thankful to @vintageanchorbooks for sending me Brendan’s next book, Symphony of Secrets to read!
Brendan Slocumb's The Violin Conspiracy tells the life of Rayquan, a young black man who loves his grandmother, classical music and the violin his grandmother gave him, but who, like many today, faces the monster of The discrimination.
In the end, Ray becomes a famous soloist, but despite everything, the protagonist does not change his way of being, his grandmother's sweet Ray, the simple, honest and hardworking man that everyone tries to take advantage of, even his own mother and relatives.
Months before participating in the largest competition for classical musicians in the world, Ray suffers the loss of his beloved violin, the one that belonged to his Pop-pop and that his beloved grandmother gave him, the same violin that turned out to be nothing more and nothing less. than a Stradivarius. From then on, Ray is faced with lawsuits and threats. An interesting plot, but predictable. He knew the identity of the Strad robber almost from the moment Ray discovers his absence.
There were two things that I really liked about this book: the playlist that the author gives us and the letter that Ray sends to the judge at the end of the book.
I thank the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this story. The opinion I have expressed above is based solely on what I think and feel about this book.
Terrific! This book kept me guessing and interested throughout. The mystery could have been a side note as the story was so intrically woven. I was deeply invested in this musical mystery!
Thank you NetGalley for a copy of this book for an honest review.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
This book was amazing. I loved the characters and the storyline was so original and unique. It made me think throughout the novel about my own bias and the things that I take for granted on a daily basis.
I was rooting for the main character Ray from the beginning. He was a bit stubborn but I understand why.
The story had a great amount of twists and turns and the pacing was perfect. I was so enthrall with the story I did cheer when the character reached certain conclusions.
I strongly recommend this book for any thriller fans and music lovers. This was the author’s debut novel and know I will be watching for more books from him.
In high school, Ray is must deal with racism. His mother wants him to drop out and get a job. Ray McMillian was given a violin from his grandmother. She encouraged his learning to play the violin. She also warned him that he would have to work twice as hard as “ white” musicians to be successful. Ray goes to college where he receives a full scholarship and deals with the prejudice from his fellow students. A violin maker repairing the heirloom violin discover it’s a Stradivarius. This discovery leaves the Marks clan who enslaved Ray’s grandfather had given him the violin. They want the violin back as they claim it belongs to them. There are legal fights over the ownership of the violin. Ray is in a New York hotel room and decides to check his violin. Upon opening the violin case, he discovers it gone and a ransom note demanding five million dollars to get it back. He’s upset as he is due in a few weeks to perform in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. The police, FBI and the insurance company hit dead ends the case is at a standstill. Is it because Ray is black? Will he be able to find the violin?
Ray’s Ray’s resilience in the face of extreme racism Is sensitively portrayed by the author. The author knows the ins and outs of a violinist. It is detailed so that I know as a former violinist, I was amazed. I got the feeling that because the Marks gave the violin to Ray’s enslaved realizes, Ray had no right to the violin. It made me sad to think that the Marks Clan could not want the violin back from something given so long without a second thought.
It’s an amazing story that includes being a mystery at the same time.
Ray McMillian discovered early on that he had a gift for playing the Violin. His grandmother, his biggest champion and supporter feels that his gift was passed down to him from his great-grandfather. She gives him his PopPop’s old dusty fiddle. According to his grandmother, this fiddle was given to his great-grandfather by his owner when he was granted his freedom from slavery. Upon discovering that his beat-up, family fiddle is actually a 10 million dollar Stradivarius, Ray starts to see that his dreams of becoming a world-class musician can become a reality, and nothing can stop him from taking that world by storm. But just as the fast-approaching date for the distinguished Tchaikovsky Competition that would put him on the map is upon him, the violin is stolen, and a ransom note for five million dollars is left in its place.
Ray must not only find a way to recover his violin in time for the competition, but also has to contend with and fend off the most likely culprits of the theft: the family of the slave owners who claim Ray’s great-grandfather stole the Stradivarius, and are suing him for the violin, and also his own family who are also out to get money from him every chance they get since the value of the violin became public knowledge.
Will the Marks family be able to prove the violin was their stolen heirloom? Did Ray’s very own
family actually steal the prized possession from Ray just before his big break? Will Ray find the
violin in time for the competition? This mysterious whodunit sheds light on the inner lives of black classical musicians, the crushing racism that they face every day, and the constant fight to prove that they belong in that world, just as any other.
The Violin Conspiracy
by Brendan Slocumb
.. is a well-paced, well-written
It includes painfully sad
(autobiographical?) incidents of
racial inequity, interesting details
about violins and orchestras and
music, and a vivid portrayal of a
And: the importance of maintaining
one’s dignity in public.
Although, unfortunately, I knew
“who-done-it” in the first chapter,
the details of the theft, revealed near
the end of the book, were clever.
I enjoyed reading this book.
Excellent character development and top notch story telling are two of the highlights of the book. The author does a nice job exploring classical music, what it means to be a musician, especially a musician of color, and the racism that exists within this world. Familial relationships are also explored. This is a story with staying power; a coming of age story. It is the story of growth, talents, music, expectations, and overcoming obstacles in one's path.
This was unexpected. I knew there were reasons why it was so loved and recommended for the Goodreads Mystery Award!
1) Black MC that’s underestimated- don’t know why this brings me so much joy, but I love the whole stick it to people aspect of it. It was also extremely frustrating that he constantly was and apparently still is underestimated for his talent.
2) a mystery- this book made me so anxious! I’m assuming that was the point! It was so much fun to figure out what happened and (I kind of guessed it all along, but it was still fun!)
3) music- I just lost my dad and he was a composer. Hearing the music between the parts, hearing the love of the music, was just lovely. It made me so happy that classical music has a current bestselling novel connection. I also had to look up the Tchaikovsky Competition because I was completely intrigued.
1) where I know that families can be messy, this is the second book I had read by a Black author that makes the black community look AWFUL. I’m so glad for Aunt Rochelle, but seriously, these people were the worst of the worst. Just as bad as the racist counterparts. It would be nice in our society if we didn’t give people any ammunition against our character. You know crazies will take this and run with it.
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb mixes mystery with the competitive world of professional music. It's also an exploration of the racism that protagonist Ray McMillian faces as a black man in a whole predominated by whiteness.
Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.
Absolutely incredible storytelling by Brendan Slocumb. The Violin Conspiracy weaves past and present in a melodic way reminiscent of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. The mystery was predictable but I feel it didn't detract from the overall story. Such a gorgeous book.
The Violin Conspiracy is my favorite read for 2022. Brendan Slocumb is a master storyteller! There are so many themes in this story. This book is a mystery! This book explores complex family relationships. This book explores racism. Ray McMillian grew up in a poor family in the South. His mother wants him to get a job to help support his family while finishing high school. Ray has a musical gift when it comes to playing the violin. He follows his dream. Ray inherits his great great grandfather’s violin that was given was given to him by his former slave owner. Ray had the violin restored and he finds out it is a Stradivarius. Never letting the violin be anywhere but by his side, he finds it missing when he went through security at the airport. What could have happened to the violin? He desperately needs it back as he is getting ready to compete in the Tchaikovsky Competition. The book moves back and forth in time throughout the book. We meet family members who wanted Ray to sell the violin so they could share the money, the slave owner’s descendants who say the violin belongs to them……the author also shows a poignant scene where Ray is arrested for a minor traffic offense and treated horribly. I had chills and tears reading this part of the story. This author pulled at my heart strings many times in the book. He also made me laugh! I can’t wait for his next book to be published in Spring 2023!
THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY by Brendan Slocumb was published in February 2022, was selected as a Good Morning America Book Club pick, and is currently on the GoodReads Choice Awards list of nominees in two categories: Debut Novels and Mystery & Thriller. Slocumb, a music educator and violinist who has performed with orchestras along the East Coast, has crafted exciting page-turner about a musician named Ray McMillian, his mentor and teacher named Janice, and several generations of Ray's family. With multiple timelines, the story goes all the way back to Civil War days and an Italian violin crafted in the previous century. It is that violin which is stolen prior to a major competition for Ray who, like only 1.8 percent of musicians performing in classical symphonies, is Black. THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY places a great deal of emphasis on the prejudice and bigotry that Ray faces (from his own family and others) and it was especially disheartening to learn that several of these instances were based on events in Slocumb's own life. The descriptions of music are beautiful and it was fascinating to learn more about that profession, including activities like the Tchaikovsky Competition. THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY received a starred review from Booklist – it is an excellent coming of age story and an impressive thriller. Slocumb's second novel, Symphony of Secrets, is scheduled for publication next April.
I couldn't put this book down. It was a fascinating story. It kept me guessing until the very end, but I didn't care because I was so immersed in Ray's story.