Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

Content Warnings: Murder, Suicide, Strong Language

The late 1990s.  A snowed-in old hotel in upstate New York.  Its aging manager, who remembers the building’s grand heyday but is starting to forget most everything else.  Hundreds of teenagers packed in for a music competition.  A harsh, glamorous piano teacher and her broken prodigy, now all grown-up.  All gathered fifteen years to the day from a murder-suicide that occurred in the hotel.

Twins Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker are off to the prestigious Statewide music festival before graduating high school and heading off to college.  Rehearsals start, and it appears the only odd part of the weekend is going to be the eccentric orchestra conductor – that is, until Alice returns to her room to find her roommate hanging from the sprinkler system, apparently dead, in an eerily similar fashion to the suicide that happened in the very same room fifteen years prior.  Only when the police arrive, the girl – and any evidence that what Alice said she saw happened at all – has disappeared.  Where did her roommate go, and is she still alive?  Everyone has secrets, from Alice and Rabbit themselves to their music teacher, from the head of the festival to the years-old crime’s only witness – and even the hotel itself.

Author Kate Racculia examines the relationships we form, how they change over time, and how they change us.  Characters yearn to reveal their true selves to others, but also to figure out who those true selves really are.  Love and loss change people in ways they never imagined, for better and for worse.  Bellweather Rhapsody is also a love letter to music and making music.  Passages throughout describe the process of making music in beautiful, heartbreaking language that captures how it feels to be part of something bigger than yourself, something simultaneously eternal and ephemeral.  Racculia explores the value of making music because you have a passion for it.  Some characters preach that only those who can perform at the level to make it in the professional music world are truly “worthy” and that everyone else is a failure, but ultimately this opinion is harmful and leads to burnout.  This ideological struggle will resonate with anyone who has ever felt passionate about something they enjoy that isn’t their “day job.” 

This can be tentatively classified as a mystery, as there is a mystery to be solved, but it isn’t your typical crime thriller or cozy mystery.  Fans of Riley Sager, Alan Bradley, and Rebecca Makkai may especially enjoy it.  A cast of quirky characters and several unexpected twists keep this book engaging from beginning to end. 

Joan Hedrick is a circulation assistant at the Graham Public Library.  Contact her at