The Catskills, 1982. A young girl in a cranberry-wine bridesmaid dress witnesses a murder-suicide in room 712 of the old Hotel Bellweather. Fifteen years later that tender child, Minnie — now grown into a nervous, reclusive woman — returns to the scene of the crime along with hundreds of amped high school musicians participating in the annual Statewide festival. A snowstorm strands them in the hotel, a flautist prodigy disappears from dreaded 712, and Kate Racculia’s delightfully odd and endearingly old-fashioned mystery Bellweather Rhapsody takes flight.
Racculia, clearly a fan of Agatha Christie, stuffs the Bellweather with a fine cast of misfits and dreamers and foes. Chief among them are the fusty old concierge Hastings (a man aware that his beloved hotel is crumbling around him), the Hatmaker twins (quiet, in-the-closet bassoonist Rabbit and his thundering ham of a sister Alice), and imperious, awful Viola (the festival head and unconcerned mother of the missing flautist). Racculia is excellent when describing the roiling energy of unchaperoned, exhibitionist teenagers: ”The Boys from Buffalo — or the BFB, as their matching homemade T-shirts proclaim — are already drunk when Alice and Rabbit reach room 1033: drunk and beatboxing, that deadliest of combinations. They are singing, harmonizing sloppily to ‘Groove Is in the Heart.”’
But as much as this is a tale of youth and ambition — and, in the case of the students’ messy adult mentors, regret and rage — it is at its core a humdinger of a mystery. Just what exactly is the curse of room 712? The pleasures of this great yarn are not just its full heart but its clever head. Poor Minnie has returned for some answers to the terrible mystery that has plagued her since childhood. She’ll be left guessing until the very end, right along with the reader. A
The Opening Line
“Minnie Graves is a bridesmaid. She hates it. Her bangs are crispy with Aqua Net. Her ponytail is so tight her forehead aches. Her feet throb in shoes that are a size too small….”