I decided to read The Bellweather Rhapsody based on jomidi’s Cannonball Read review. I’m a sucker for a locked door mystery, especially when it involves a group of strangers trapped in a remote location with a murderer.
Content warning: Suicide, both completed and attempted. The completed suicide is described in a fair amount of detail. Domestic abuse is mentioned.
In 1982, twelve year-old Minnie Graves decides to explore the Bellweather Hotel after her older sister’s wedding. She stumbles upon another new bride moments after she has shot her new husband and is about to hang herself. That moment has haunted Minnie for 15 years, and shaped her entire life. She decides to check into the Bellweather on the anniversary to exorcise her demons.
It’s November 1997, and seventeen year-old twins Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker check into the Bellweather Hotel for Statewide, New York’s annual student music conference. The most talented singers and musicians have been selected from local competitions to attend. After three days of grueling all-day rehearsals, they will perform for scouts from Juilliard, the New England Conservatory, and other prestigious schools. This weekend could decide their futures.
But Minnie, Alice, and Rabbit all find their plans derailed when one of the Statewide performers is found hanging in room 712, the same room where Minnie witnessed the murder-suicide 15 years earlier.
This book was so much more than I thought it would be. I was expecting a pretty standard murder mystery. The first surprise was the level of character development. We have the privilege of seeing deep into the thoughts, hopes, desires, and fears of most of the point of view characters. Rabbit’s discovery of music is beautiful and moving. Minnie’s fear of everything is palpable and understandable. The other surprise was the importance of music. It’s almost like another character in the book. Almost every character has a special relationship to music and performance. For some characters, it’s their escape, while for others it’s their prison.
For most mystery novels, the mystery and the journey toward solving it are the most important parts. For this mystery, the characters’ journeys are most important.
Rabbit had never understood music before as an agent of connection, as a way for people not only to feel within themselves but to feel among themselves, a language that brought common souls into conversation. Beethoven could talk to him and could talk to his father, and he and his father could talk Beethoven to each other. Rabbit was a very shy child, more often spoken to than with. A recurring theme of parent-teacher conferences, beyond his academic excellence, was concern over his apparently self-imposed isolation. But on the day that Rabbit felt the Pastoral Symphony vaporize his body and plug his soul directly into his father’s, he realized he had found his native tongue.
Minnie had two choices. She could stand on the edge of her lawn and watch as the dog was struck and killed. Or she could run into traffic and save his life.
Later she would describe to her mother how the dog had smiled at her, how his tongue rolled out and the black edges of his mouth pulled back in a friendly grin. What she didn’t tell her mother was that, in the heartbeat before she ran into the road, she found herself unable to recall the last time a stranger had smiled at her, easily, like a friend she didn’t know yet.