Coming in February of 2022 is The Violin Conspiracy, the debut novel by Brendan Slocumb. I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the galley in exchange for an honest review.
Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job and earn more than minimum wage. 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 family nor the racism inherent in the world of classical music. When he discovers that his great-great-grandfather’s beat-up old fiddle is actually so much more, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach. But on the eve of the renowned and cutthroat competition, the violin is stolen, a ransom note for five million dollars in its place. Ray doesn’t know who he can trust—or whether he will ever see his beloved violin again.
Even though I grew up a middle-class, white male from the north and possess zero musical talents (I don't play an instrument though I do greatly enjoy listening to all kinds of music), I found myself quickly connected to this novel's protagonist. That is thanks to the writing talent of Slocumb and how relatable of a character he presents in Ray. Of course, looking at his biography, the author clearly writes from that which he knows - being a violin player of color himself. He delivers an interesting and relevant tale - setting up the story in a way that introduces the reader to Ray and his world through a logical, linear trip through his past. We learn how this renowned performer came to be and all the hardships he had to endure doing so. It was an engaging read that kept me wanting to get in "just one more chapter". It was refreshing to read a story with a single narrative focus - one voice, one vision, and a number of very powerful messages about passions, prejudices and trust.
I predict that this will be a breakout novel for 2022 and the first of a long writing career for Slocumb. He'll be someone I'll be watching for and also be promoting to my patrons at the library.