Brendan Slocumb composes a bildungsroman cleverly contained within a gripping literary thriller. A rising star on the classical music scene discovers his violin is stolen just days before the International Tchaikovsky Competition. For Ray, the Slocumb’s protagonist, the loss of his instrument is especially painful not only because it was a gift from his beloved grandmother but also because it is a Stradivarius, one of the rarest instruments in the world.
When Ray opens his violin case in his Charlotte, North Carolina, home, he discovers a single tennis shoe and a ransom note demanding five million dollars in Bitcoin. he has a few suspects, chief among them the members of two families: the Marks clan, who claim that Ray’s great-great-grandfather, an enslaved person, took the violin from their ancestor; and his own family, who care more for the value of the violin than they do for Ray.
The novel is told as a series of flashbacks detailing Ray’s childhood with his uncaring mother to his meteoric rise on the American classical scene. Along the way, Ray has to deal with lawsuits from his own family and from the Marks family as well as racism within the classical music community and from without.
Grab a copy of this gripping debut novel at Goldberry Books in Downtown Concord.
About the Book
Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a job at the hospital cafeteria. If he’s lucky, he’ll 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 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 great-great-grandfather’s beat-up old fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach. 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. Ray will have to piece together the clues to recover his treasured Strad…before it’s too late.
With the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-great-grandfather asserting that the instrument is rightfully theirs, and with his family staking their own claim, Ray doesn’t know who he can trust–or whether he will ever see his beloved violin again.