Friday, August 12, 2016

Review of "Bellweather Rhapsody" by Kate Racculia

Every year the Bellweather Hotel in upstate New York hosts a musical event called "Statewide" where talented young students get the opportunity to show off their skills. In 1997, twin high school seniors - Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker - have both qualified to attend. Rabbit plays the bassoon in the orchestra, and Alice, an aspiring singer/actress, is in the chorus. This year the head of Statewide is Viola Fabian, a cruel, unpopular woman who delights in crushing the aspirations of young talent, and uses and abuses people to further her goals. Coincidentally, Viola's daughter - flute prodigy Jill Facelli - is Alice's roommate in Room 712.

On the first evening of Statewide Alice discovers Jill's hanging body in their hotel room. When Alice rushes out to get help Jill's body disappears. This incident is eerily reminiscent of an occurrence 15 years before when a newlywed bride shot her husband and hanged herself in Room 712 of the Bellweather.

The crux of the story revolves around what happened to Jill. Viola insists that Jill, prone to acting out, faked this incident and is perfectly okay. Alice, however, fears that Jill is dead and is determined to investigate. Meanwhile Rabbit has his own issues to deal with: he develops his first heart-rending crush on a handsome acapella singer and debates telling Alice that he's gay.

There's plenty of additional drama going on in the story, which is populated by an array of intriguing characters: Natalie Wilson - the Hatmakers' chaperone - has no rapport with young people and was once Viola Fabian's student; Fisher Brodie - Rabbit's orchestra conductor - is an eccentric former pianist who purposely mangled his hand and has a romantic history with Viola Fabian; Minnie Graves - a troubled young woman - was a child when she was the first person to discover the Belllweather's hanged bride in 1982; Auggie - a cute, deaf dog - is Minnie's comfort pet; Harold Hastings - the elderly hotel concierge - is a kind-hearted, troubled man who can't stand Viola being in charge of Statewide.

Could one of these people have harmed Jill, perhaps to get back at Viola? Alice tries to find out while the characters and situations play out in various ways. There's a major snowstorm, lovely music, some romance, psychotic behavior, bad food, drunk teens, amateur detective work, and so on.

This is a face-paced, amusing, and entertaining mystery that's a little off the beaten track for this genre. I enjoyed it and recommend it.

Rating: 4 stars

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