cover image The Violin Conspiracy

The Violin Conspiracy

Brendan Slocumb. Anchor, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-31541-5

Black violinist Ray McMillian, the hero of Slocumb’s gripping debut, receives a $5 million ransom demand for his Stradivarius violin after the instrument is stolen from his New York City hotel room a few weeks before he’s due to perform in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. When the police, the FBI, and the insurance company’s investigator hit dead ends, the case comes to a standstill. Flashback to Ray’s high school years in Charlotte, N.C., where he must deal with pervasive racism—and his mother nagging him to drop out and get a job. Meanwhile, his grandmother, who supports his musical aspirations, gives him her grandfather’s violin. At college, where he receives a full scholarship, Ray endures prejudice from fellow students, and a luthier repairing the heirloom discovers it’s a Stradivarius. This revelation leads members of the Marks clan, whose ancestors enslaved Ray’s ancestors, to claim the violin belongs to them. Legal battles over the violin’s ownership ensue. The tension builds as the competition looms, and Ray struggles to shake off doubts, not get caught in false leads, and focus on finding the missing violin. Slocumb sensitively portrays Ray’s resilience in the face of extreme racism. The author is off to a promising start. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management. (Feb.)