book review: Bellweather Rhapsody

bellweather rhapsody

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 13, 2014). Contemporary fiction. Hardcover. 352 pages. ISBN13: 9780544129917.

The setting: the crumbling Bellweather Hotel in the Catskills during the annual Statewide festival

The cast of characters:

Lively and confident vocalist Alice Hatmaker. Alice keeps a journal where she chronicles her every thought and goal. “Her mother thinks it’s just a journal, but it’s much more than that. It’s the definitive dossier for her posthumous biographer. Alice knows how these things work: she started young, which she knows means she has to end young too—talent like hers eats you up, flames you out brighter than the sun.”

Her twin brother, apprehensive Bertram “Rabbit” Hatmaker. He’s yet to come out as gay. He might do so this weekend to his sister but he’s not sure. “And if the only thing the world saw about him was his gayness, how could anyone ever fall in love with him? Would he have to go to parades and wear rainbow-striped buttons? Would he have to love Barbra Streisand?”

Their seemingly disinterested chaperone Natalie Wilson. Turns out as a child she showed quite some promise as a pianist and a young Viola Fabian squashed any hopes she had to pursue a performance career.

Tempermental, unpredictable Scottish conductor Fisher Brodie who has his own stormy past.

Statewide head and all-around meanie Viola Fabian and her violin prodigy daughter Jill Faccelli. She might be reluctant to allow her mother to live vicariously through her. She goes mysteriously missing on the first night of the festival.

Minnie Graves. As a girl, she was a witness to the hotel murder-suicide more than a decade prior to this weekend. She’s decided to face her fears and her past by returning to the hotel.

Concierge and amateur sleuth Harold Hastings. The hotel’s his haven. His home. His life. He cherishes it and guards it.

Everyone has reasons to be at Bellweather Hotel on a winter weekend. Some for one last competition before college. Some to prove their mettle. Some harbor deep secrets and want to confront them. Some wish to challenge themselves in myriad ways. Twirl in the added stress involved with impending college admissions, being the best, present and future and never-again musical talents, hormones and a creepy old hotel where a murder-suicide occurred more than a decade ago.

Author Kate Racculia says she wrote Bellweather Rhapsody because she wanted to write a mystery/thriller that paid homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. She also wanted to use music to examine talent and possibility and also explore what it means to have your potential ahead of you or behind you. Racculia knows this music scene. She writes quite splendid and comprehensive descriptions about rehearsals for particular pieces as well as the challenges youthful musicians encounter.

Bellweather Rhapsody is an engaging, keen read brimming with colorful characters, a twisty plot, musical drama and wit. It’s quite the savvy, perceptive page-turner. Perfect for summer reading.

RATING: ****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

purchase at Amazon: Bellweather Rhapsody

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