It takes one moment in 2016 for ragtime music expert Alan Chandler to go from sitting in his hotel room in Sedalia, Missouri, to standing beside the King of Ragtime--Scott Joplin--at his upright piano in 1899. Chandler suddenly finds himself more than one hundred years earlier inside the famous Maple Leaf Club with its gas chandeliers, massive walnut bar, gaming tables, and pals surrounding the noted pianist and composer.
"What in the hell is going on? Am I dreaming?"
Clearly something unexpected is going on for Chandler in the fourth and final Ragtime Mystery by father and son Larry Karp and Casey Karp. A longtime friend Mickey Potash phones Chandler, top ragtime performer and national expert on Joplin, to say that a duffel filled with Joplin's handwritten music has surfaced. Chandler and his grandson, Tom, race from Seattle to Sedalia to evaluate what may be the most important find in popular American music. Potash shows them initial pages which look authentic, but before they can get the duffel hidden in a padlocked closet, he is tortured and murdered. The duffel is stolen.
Disappointment encourages a resurgence of symptoms in Chandler's Stage 4 cancer. He's determined to validate the music before time runs out. Tom, and later his wife, Miriam, help him. Another murder complicates their investigation. The trail to the duffel is crowded: Jackson and Saramae, two young people with journalism in their blood, want to solve the crime, as do homicide detectives and antique shopkeepers. Not surprisingly, the roots of the lost music lie in past emotional conflict, now tangled in genealogical warfare.
In Larry Karp and son Casey's welcome addition to Larry's Ragtime trilogy (which concluded with 2010's The Ragtime Fool), ragtime music authority Alan Chandler and his 16-year-old grandson, Tom, travel from Seattle to Sedalia, Mo., to meet pianist Mikey Potash, who claims to have discovered a trove of unknown compositions by Scott Joplin. Potash shows them an old duffel bag filled with handwritten sheets of music, notes, and revisions undoubtedly by Joplin and tells how he came to buy it from a Kansas City antique dealer. In his hotel room, Alan, who takes drugs for his fourth-stage prostate cancer, somehow visits 1899 Sedalia and Scott Joplin hallucination or reality? After Potash is murdered and the duffel bag stolen, Alan, who continues to time-travel, and Tom go after the killer and the stolen bag. In the course of their search, the sleuths discover two branches of a family the Nolands and the Nowlins intimately and acrimoniously involved with Joplin and his music. Lovers of Joplin and ragtime will enjoy this trip to the past.