The story takes place over a few days in the Bellweather, an once glorious but now shabby upstate New York that is hosting a high school all-state band event. Over-achieving teenagers, their tired chaperones, ambitious conductors, and harried hotel staff are already bracing for the event when things get derailed by a blizzard and the mysterious disappearance of a student. Hanging over this is all is the hotel’s past–it was once the site of a tragic murder-suicide where a bride killed her new husband and herself on her wedding day. Rather than seeing all this from one point of view, the action is narrated by a whole list of characters including, but not limited to, twin high school student named Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker who each have their own talents and secrets, their music teacher who has a complicated past of her own, the hotel caretaker who cannot quite believe what is happening to his beloved Bellweather, and a guest who has come to the hotel to face her demons.
Racculia manages a neat balance in that the book feels big and sprawling with all the character threads weaving in and out, but at the same time has a sense of claustrophobia as everyone is trapped in this one old hotel that does not feel particularly welcoming. But this isn’t a horror novel, as much as the trapped-in-a-hotel piece makes it sound like The Shining, and it’s not a traditional mystery, even if the central question of the book is what happened to the disappeared student. Instead, it felt more like reading a modern Dickens novel. Characters and back stories and coincidences and problems kept piling up and up and I kept getting more nervous, trying to figure out how it was all going to resolve. But I did find the ultimate ending gratifying, maybe because I was surprised by the outcomes of many of the characters–narrators I thought were reliable turned out not be, people I initially hated started to endear themselves to me, someone I was desperately worried about pulled herself through and out the other side, that sort of thing.
Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Quirky, creepy, and satisfying.
You might also like: This reminded me of Skippy Dies and The Lonely Polygamist, although Bellweather Rhapsody is kinder than either of those. But more than anything else, this made me think of Fargo–both the original movie and the recent TV series adaptation. They all share something in the matter-of-fact way that bizarre people and things are presented.