Cover Image: The Violin Conspiracy

The Violin Conspiracy

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Member Reviews

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.
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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.
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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.
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The Violin Conspiracy 
by Brendan Slocumb
.. is a well-paced, well-written 
mystery.  
It includes painfully sad 
(autobiographical?) incidents of 
racial inequity,  interesting details 
about violins and orchestras and 
music, and a vivid portrayal of a 
dysfunctional family. 
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.
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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.
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This was unexpected. I knew there were reasons why it was so loved and recommended for the Goodreads Mystery Award! 

LIKES: 
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. 

DISLIKES:
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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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This title sounded promising, but I was simply never able to engage with it. I knowed it's received enthusiastic review, so I'm assuming that my response is atypical.
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Going into this, I had no expectations. I knew that it was a mystery and that was it. The first part of the book had me wanting to put it down. I just didn't like the tone of Ray and he sounded very naive and juvenile. It had me asking why was there a lawsuit and when I got tired of waiting for the reasoning for it, the second part started. Which has to be my favorite part of the book because it is Ray's teen self of him in high school and wanting to play violin and his mom berating him and the only person who supports his love for music is his grandmother.

There were some issues that I had and couldn't believe that the main characters didn't think of. 

Like, did Ray honestly think his family would be supportive after telling them that the violin was worth 10 million? How did he not think that his money hungry family wouldn't want to sell it.

I don't even understand why the professor told the University in the first place. It was not any of their damn business. She even said that the University would want to profit off it. Not so smart and just plan stupid."

That is like winning the billion dollar powerball and telling everyone surrounding you that you just won and not thinking about the consequences that would follow.
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Brendan Slocumb's novel, The Violin Conspiracy, is one of my favorite reads of 2022.  Ray McMillan is a black violinist with a dream.  He wants to become a professional violinist.  In the process of realizing his dream, Ray's violin (a priceless Stradivarius) is stolen and a note for ransom is left.  This book is a beautifully written novel that makes you root for the lead character as he attempts to defy all odds and prove to the world the talent that he possesses.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC digital copy. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own.

Absolutely lovely story for anyone who appreciates music,. The historical elements were done extremely well. My favorite lines were the detailed performance descriptions in which I could feel the music without hearing it. “Together we are a symphony.”

4.5 out of 5 stars and my deepest respect to the author.
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I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review.

I was really excited about this novel. I once was a violin player too, alas, after high school I was too busy with other things, I still hold such great affection for my violin. This novel immediately intrigued me and reminded me of an amazing and not as well known movie, The Red Violin (MUST WATCH!!!). I was VERY excited to read this and it did not take long for me to feel.....judged? Lectured at? Thrown into a political fire rather than be entertained? I do not know how to word it because I do not doubt someone will now be offended and label me as something that I very much am not.

The overarching story was pretty cool with the history of the violin and the families vying for it. I would LOVE to see and hear a Stradivarius in person, I have only ever seen a beautiful one in a museum in DC. This are such amazing and unique instruments and if you don't know the history of them, look it up. It is literally insane chance that has never happened again that made this wood so uniquely and exquistely PERFECT for these instruments. Quite fascinating.

With that, like I said the over-arching story was quite entertaining and when the novel was focusing on that, I enjoyed it. Then other times I felt like I was thrown into a political wildfire that I had no desire to keep reading. But I did. Once we figure out the "who done it" part, I was not really surprised. The ending was a bit meh because there were a lot of loose ends NOT tied up. Like the fund raising, what happened to all that? Or the two different families and their issues? That was just kind of said, they backed off or something and never fully explained. The ending just felt rushed and very happily ever after.

I truly wanted to enjoy this novel, however, I do not like ANY time of novel that focuses on one thing when it is presented and supposed to be about something else. This novel was presented as being about finding this accidental gem as a family heirloom then having it stolen and all of that, and instead I felt like the actual story was overshadowed with politics. Just disappointing. I would have some interest in reading this author's next book, however, I don't want to go into another novel expecting one story and getting another and I am afriad that is going to be this author's writing style. This feels like more of a niche author for his debut novel rather than being able to branch out for many people and genres.
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Ray McMillian is determined to become a professional musician. He’s not going to let anyone stand in his way. When he finds out that his great-grandfather owned a Stradivarius, all his dreams feel more possible. But when it’s stolen, Ray is determined to find it. Odds are not in his favor, but he isn’t going to give up to get back the priceless violin. 

The plot starts off from the first moment. Ray’s violin is gone and he is desperate to find it. I’m hooked, I’m ready to dive in more to see where this is going to go and how he is going to get it back, everything that happens from it. Then it completely changes gears. 

It goes from starting off with the mystery to the past and how he got to that point. This really slowed down the whole story for me. While it is important to get to know more about Ray and where he came from, seeing the racism he faced, taking up nearly the whole book really distracts from the mystery which I thought was going to be a big part of this book. 

After a while, everything started to feel more repetitive. There was part of his family being awful then him facing racism from someone else. The formula that it felt like it followed lessened the impact for me. 

Reading the author’s note, I can’t help but think that this would have been better if it was non-fiction. With the note it seemed like this was based a lot of what he faced while trying to get to the point he is at. With how some elements were neglected, I think this could have been the best course of action. 

The writing also made it hard for me to connect with the characters. Everyone felt weak and flat. I didn’t ever feel a true connection with them and their story, nor could I really feel the impact of the racism beyond the first few ones (as after that it was so repetitive it pulled me out of the story). 

The story of Ray has so much potential. It discusses an important topic, but unfortunately falls flat for me. The mystery might as well not have been there and the formulaic feeling left me longing to feel something for what was going on and to break the mold. The important topics were not enough to really fall in love with this book.
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Ray McMillian is determined to pursue a career as a violinist, despite all the obstacles the classical music world puts in his way as a Black man. After discovering his great-grandfather’s fiddle is actually an authentic Stradivarius, Ray’s dreams suddenly seem reachable. But then the violin is stolen, and Ray is determined to get it back.

WOW. This book is absolutely remarkable. The descriptions of music and the violin are gorgeous, the racism Ray experiences is harrowing, and the mystery is perfectly twisty and turny. I drove everyone in my life nuts talking about this book while I was reading it. What a complete stunner. Don't sleep on it!
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This story explores racism through the lens of a gifted black violinist. His belief in himself, his struggle to become the best he can be, with a multitude of obstacles, in his path. The story of his grandfather's violin, the betrayal of loved ones and the mystery of who took his violin. An excellent and worthwhile read.
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Ray, a classical musician, has always struggled for acceptance as a black man in an overwhelmingly white world. He's overcome incredible difficulty to get to the top of his game, and the reader gets to experience these trials with him via a series of flashbacks. In the present, Ray has recently discovered that his treasured and slightly beat-up violin is actually an incredibly rare Stradivarius. Unfortunately, it has been stolen, and Ray is desperate for its return. The novel moves between past and present, painting an incredibly authentic picture of the life of a musician, particularly as a black man in the classical music world. His voice is authentic, and you'll be rooting for Ray to succeed until the very last page.
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