The Violin Conspiracy

Anchor. Feb. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780593315415. $28. M
DEBUT Slocumb, a former principal violinist and concertmaster, manages a delicate balance in his debut. It is a heist story and also an exploration of hope and perseverance in a world that doesn’t always reward such. Ray McMillian is a Black virtuoso violinist on the cusp of his biggest challenge yet—competing in a prestigious Russian competition that no American has won before—when his prized Stradivarius violin is stolen. Ray prizes the violin not for its monetary worth, but for the personal connection it gives him to his beloved grandmother. But to others, including Ray’s family members and the descendants of the family that once enslaved Ray’s ancestors, the violin represents a $10 million payout. Ray is left with is a ransom demand and the realization that no matter the loss, he must work toward winning the Tchaikovsky Competition.
VERDICT This novel brings an unflinching eye to the sometimes-cutthroat world of classical music, its very white culture, and the challenges a talented young Black violinist might face in that world. But in Ray, a man who strives toward honor and kindness despite the racist acts (some of them violent) he endures, the story also finds its heart. Strongly recommended.
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