Wednesday, 16 September 2020

#CBR12 Book 58: "Bellweather Rhapsody" by Kate Racculia

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

#CBR12 Bingo: No Money (in fact, won in the prize raffle for the first annual CBR Bingo)

Official book description:
Fifteen years ago, a murder-suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it, Minnie Graves. Now hundreds of high school musicians have gathered at the Bellweather for the annual Statewide festival; Minnie has returned to face her demons; and a blizzard is threatening to trap them all inside. When a young prodigy disappears from infamous room 712, the search for her entwines an eccentric cast of conductors and caretakers, teenagers on the verge and adults haunted by memories.

As I mentioned above, I won a signed (!) copy of this a few years ago in the first Cannonball Bingo raffle. It's also been favourably reviewed by a bunch of people I trust, and so it felt appropriate to read it for this year's bingo. 

Because I never seem to learn, I'm back to reviewing things I read about two months ago, and despite promising myself that I will be good and take notes while reading and especially after finishing a book, I never do. It's not like I'm lacking in pens or notebooks (I have SO many!), I just can't seem to find the time or energy to actually sit down and jot down my thoughts upon completing a book. So this review will be a bit of a jumble of things I remember liking in the book.

As I'm sure you can guess from the book description, this is a mystery novel featuring a large and eclectic cast of characters in an old, rather spooky hotel. There are strong personalities both among the teenage and adult cast, there are mysterious disappearances, there are unreliable narrators, strange coincidences, and unexpected connections between individuals who initially seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with one another. 

We meet the wonderfully named Hatmaker twins, Alice and Rabbit, who are both going to the now pretty delapidated Bellweather hotel (think the hotel from the Shining) for a weekend retreat for talented young musicians. Alice is ambitious, outgoing and despite wanting to be a star actress, struggles with empathising with anyone else. Her twin Rabbit is introverted, reserved, nerdy and devoted to his instrument. He also very much wants to come out to his sister at some point during the weekend, but has no idea how to begin approaching the subject. 

There's also the Hatmaker's chaperone, a woman with a lot of buried trauma and violence in her past. There's Alice's roommate, a child prodegy with a very contentious relationship to her icy and controlling mother, the eccentric conductor of the student orchestra (a former prodigy himself), the aging concierge at the hotel who wants everything to run smoothly and fondly remembers the hotel's glory days, as well as the mystery guest with her emotional support dog who shows up right as things start getting really dramatic.

All the characters felt wonderfully real and complex. Some of them are deeply dislikable, but they all seem like actual people, and just seeing the various ways in which they interacted would have kept me turning the pages, even if there wasn't a mystery to be solved. There are a lot of twists and turns. I think I'd figured out a couple before they were actually revealed, but mostly, I was frequently surprised and entertained by this story. I can see why so many people have rated it highly.

Judging a book by its cover: The cover of this unusual mystery might not make a lot of sense until you've actually finished the novel. The big hotel in the background, all the snow, and the lonely grand piano, with the knocked over piano stool. The choices the cover designer has made make more sense after you've finished the story. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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