Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War. I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)
It's a November weekend in 1987, and the down-at-heel Bellweather resort hotel in the Catskills is hosting its annual music convention for New York's high school talent. Twins Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker from tiny Ruby Falls will be there, Alice for the second time.
Alice is a singer, featured in all of her high school's musical theater performances, and absolutely convinced she is destined for stardom. Rabbit is a much more low-key character. He's a bassoonist in the orchestra and hasn't managed yet to gin up the courage to tell anyone––even Alice––that he's gay.
Viola Fabian, the new organizer of the competition, is as striking and sociopathic as Cruella de Ville, and her brilliant flautist daughter, Jill, is determined to use this weekend as an opportunity to get away from her somehow. Fisher Brodie, the symphony conductor, and Natalie Wilson, music teacher at the Hatmakers' school, are scarred veterans of their different past experiences with Viola.
Minnie Graves is an outsider to the conventioneers, but not to the Bellweather. Exactly 15 years earlier, when she was a girl, she witnessed an event outside Room 712 that has haunted her ever since, and that she hopes to exorcise this anniversary weekend. Harold Hastings, longtime Bellweather concierge, has been a witness to years of music competitions––and the mystery of Room 712.
You can just imagine the emotions, hormones and scheming when you gather hundreds of talented, competitive teenagers, and their adult supervisors, and shut them up in the middle of nowhere for three days, as a blizzard approaches––maybe you've even experienced it yourself. And when a new horror occurs in Room 712, all that intensity is dialed up to the peak setting.
Some people are describing this book as Glee + The Shining, and I can see that, but there is a lot more to it, though it's hard to classify. It combines a young adult coming-of-age story with an amateur detective story, adding in some romance, magical realism, and some horror/suspense, all done in breezy, entertaining prose.
Racculia is one of those writers who can paint you a character portrait in just a few words, and make you feel you almost can see right into the character's soul. She directs this large cast of characters like the most skilled conductor, weaving their themes together, sometimes in harmony and sometimes clashing. Every character is a bit of a misfit, but her writing is filled with understanding and sympathy for them. (Well, maybe not Viola, but everybody else.)
If you have an interest in quirky stories and unusual characters, presented by a skilled storyteller, I recommend you give this book a try.
Note: Thanks to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Amazon's Vine program, for providing an advance review copy of the book. Bellweather Rhapsody will be published on May 13, 2014.