Published on June 19th, 2014 | by Mike Brown0
‘Bellweather Rhapsody’ Review
Bellweather Rhapsody is somewhere between a cozy mystery– lots of locations and food- and a literary mystery– characters are symbols, people grow, the hotel mirrors the storyline!
Minor background spoilers — nothing you wouldn’t read on the back cover.
Bellweather Rhapsody a charming book that feels just a little too much like it was workshopped out of any inspiration– one character is named “Rabbit” with all the baggage that comes with that and, God help me, an Alice gets some Wonderland name-checking. Too cutsie-cute, Kate! The characters are so broad that they are nearly Agatha Christie types– intentionally, I’m sure– and yet, I liked most of them very much, particularly Rabbit. Although I guess I like Christie’s characters a lot of the time too, particularly Poirot. But the writing is rock solid and there’s not a moment in the story where I didn’t want to find out what in the hell was going on in that hotel.
The hook is irresistible. We open on a little girl happening upon an inexplicable murder/suicide in a grand old hotel then fast forward twenty years to a similar event that starts the truth dominoes falling. The Bellweather is infested with musical teenagers, there to play or sing, selected in a statewide competition with all the hormones and drama such a gathering would stir up, in both the kids and the instructors. We get lots of different narrative perspectives– even with a couple of unreliable narrators. This is definitely a fun book for mystery lovers.
I’m not even going to try to outline the main characters as they are legion. But suffice to say, we have it all, mothers, father, sisters, brothers. We have awful, sublime, loyalty, betrayals and every other operatic theme you can think of . Most of it works. There’s a gay subplot that seemed a little forced. I mean that kid changes a lot in three days. But I suppose it’s a form of progress to have a tacked-on gay romantic subplot. And I loved Rabbit, the gay romantic bassoonist.I haven’t read any other books by Kate Racculia but I really enjoyed her sense of music, which completely pervades the story. Not since Salmon Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet did I read a book that made me believe that the characters loved and understood music. There’s an energy while she’s writing about, say, playing the flute, that reminds you that there can be a Jimi Hendrix of any instrument. Also, I believe that music can elevate your soul, but it usually sounds dumb to say it. Racculia pulls it off wonderfully.
A quirk of Racculia’s that I did not enjoy was that we have about fifty references to The Shining in a book about a big, old hotel. Sure, sure, she made it reasonable that it would keep coming up. There’s actually a lot of pop culture in the book, more than you’d think in a book that’s trying so hard. If I was giving her writing advice, I would say to let that fun side out more. Pop culture references aren’t necessarily bad, but they just didn’t always fit the tone of this book.
I mentioned earlier that the book seemed overworkshopped. Perhaps I should explain that. Thematically, the book feels the need to dot every i and cross every t. By the end, I felt like I had been spoon fed each life-changing epiphany. I called the book “literary” because it doesn’t end when the mystery ends, but rather at the end of each character arc. A more confident writer might have left some of those final revelations to our imagination because most of them had already been set up and weren’t really surprises. But it’s a minor point and a good problem to have. Racculia mentioned Hammet and Christie many times in the book and should perhaps take a look at the ends of those kinds of stories, they wrap up quickly.
If you like mysteries, Mike says check out Bellweather Rhapsody.
By the way, I feel like author Kate Racculia’s name is somehow a vampire anagram. Don’t reveal to her your true name! And keep a hickory stake by your side, readers! Katraculia might be our next Hammer film!
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