The statewide music festival is held each year at the Bellweather Hotel. Twins Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker will be attending this year as a basoon player and singer, respectively. Alice sees the festival as the first stop on her way to Broadway. But her time at the Bellweather gets off to a eerie start when her roommate Jill disappears and Alice discovers that their room was home to a bizarre murder-suicide fifteen years ago. As a snowstorm strands everyone at the hotel, Alice and Rabbit will discover that music is more powerful than they imagine and that everyone at the hotel is hiding a secret.
I enjoyed Kate Racculia's earlier book This Must Be The Place, so I thought her newest novel would be perfect for Readers in Peril. It turns out I was absolutely right. The high school musician in me loved reading about the bravado and dreams of the kids in the choir and orchestra and it was spooky enough to keep me turning pages while still letting me sleep at night.
Bellweather Rhapsody is incredibly atmospheric. The Bellweather Hotel used to be glamorous and readers are privy to that through the eyes of Harold Hastings, the long-time hotel concierge. But nowadays the hotel is run-down and creepy, and the ambiance isn't helped by the tragic events of fifteen years ago. As the snow comes down and the character's secrets comes to light, it starts to feel downright claustrophobic for Alice, Rabbit, their chaperones, and Hastings.
Racculia strikes the perfect balance in this book - you can't stop laughing, but you also feel genuine dread that something awful is about to happen to the characters. We are witness to the big dreams of high school kids and the pain of regret experienced daily by their chaperones and the hotel employees. The perspective switches often and it's a testament to Racculia's characters that I found myself intrigued by them all.
The people in this book are perfect examples of the fickle nature of the musical muse and success as musicians. Alice, Rabbit, and all of the other students are dreaming of fabulous careers as world renowned singers and instrumentalists. The adults in the room know better, as they find themselves conducting or teaching high school music instead of playing sold-out concert halls.Perhaps the most present ghost in this whole story is the ghost of what might have been for these musicians searching for a way to make music even when their dreams are over.
This mystery will keep you guessing until the last pages, while also making you think about the importance of music, honesty, and confronting the darkness in our lives.
By Kate Racculia
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt May 2014
From the library
Book #2 for Readers in Peril X