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GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK! • Ray McMillian is a Black classical musician on the rise—undeterred by the pressure and prejudice of the classical music world—when a shocking theft sends him on a desperate quest to recover his great-great-grandfather’s heirloom violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.
“I loved The Violin Conspiracy for exactly the same reasons I loved The Queen’s Gambit: a surprising, beautifully rendered underdog hero I cared about deeply and a fascinating, cutthroat world I knew nothing about—in this case, classical music.” —Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant and Hour of the Witch
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Brendan Slocumb’s debut is a literary unicorn: a beautifully crafted mystery, a musical fairy tale, and a searing depiction of one Black man’s American experience. Violinist Ray McMillian’s staggering talent is obvious to everyone except his mother, who’d prefer he get a “real” job. When he inherits a mysterious, priceless violin, it takes his playing to the next level—and attracts the attention of opportunists and one very clever thief. As we follow Ray’s increasingly desperate global search for the stolen violin, we witness his run-ins with the ugly racism of the classical music world. Slocumb, a professional musician and educator, writes from experience—his depictions of gleaming concert halls and casual bigotry ring equally true. The Violin Conspiracy is a dazzling read.
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.