Narrator: Jessica Almasy
Published by Audible Studios on May 13, 2014
Length: 11 hrs 28 mins
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Fifteen years ago, a murder-suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it, Minnie Graves. Now hundreds of high school musicians have gathered at the Bellweather for the annual Statewide festival; Minnie has returned to face her demons; and a blizzard is threatening to trap them all inside. When a young prodigy disappears from infamous room 712, the search for her entwines an eccentric cast of conductors and caretakers, teenagers on the verge and adults haunted by memories. This is a genre-bending page-turner, full of playful nods to pop-culture classics from The Shining to Agatha Christie to Glee.
I adored Bellweather Rhapsody. But as a former high school band geek of the early 90s who still accompanies kids at solo and ensemble and a lifelong lover of whodunnits, I am probably the perfect audience. It’s fun quirky and there are a ton of characters all of whom I loved – well, except one, but she was the one I was supposed to dislike anyway.
The Bellweather Hotel in upstate New York is long past its heyday of elegant ballroom dancing and fine dining. Now, which in the novels world is 1997, about the only thing that keeps the Bellweather afloat is hosting “Statewide”, an event where the best NY State high school musicians and singers are brought together for four days of musical excellence and all the accompanying drama.
So, this weekend, we’ve got tons of high schoolers, their chaperones, and conductors converging on the hotel. The characters are where this book shines. Yes, they’re over the top and their choices are not always reasonable but they fit the setting and the situation so well. We have the Hatmaker twins, Rabbit a bassoonist, and Alice a singer. Rabbit is gay and wants to come out to his sister but hasn’t found the right time. Alice is convinced that the missing violin prodigy was actually murdered. We have their teacher, Mrs. Wilson, who was rather fascinating. She and a conductor have a romantic subplot going on that’s odd but definitely adds a lot to the book, both in character development and in how the mystery plays out. There’s the missing violinist and her mom who is in charge of the weekend and is probably a psychopath. We’ve also got Minnie who witnessed a murder-suicide at the hotel in 1982 and is trying to face it and put it behind her. And of course, there’s the hotel staff.
At heart, it’s a pretty straightforward mystery, but all the characters’ storylines, emotions, wants and needs make it unique. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was even satisfied by the ending.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: