Not quite as creepy as the Overlook Hotel, but with its own history of unpleasantness, the Bellweather Hotel in upstate New York dominates the pages of Kate Racculia’s quirky new novel, Bellweather Rhapsody. Here, the really Bad Thing happened in Room 712, some 15 years before the main action of the book, which takes place in 1997. While the tragedy does haunt the hotel, it is in a realistic and not supernatural way, right down to the monster blizzard that socks everyone in for the weekend. Instead of the alcoholic writer Jack Torrance, we get teenaged musicians at different stages of careers that may or may not pan out. Even the cataclysm that harkens back to the Overlook’s malfunctioning elevators isn’t caused by evil spirits as much as rotting infrastructure. Insurance should be able to take care of it.
The action revolves around the talented Hatmaker twins. There’s bassoonist Bertram, also known as Rabbit and his sister Alice, a singer. They’ve both been chosen to participate in the Statewide festival, which is traditionally held at the Bellweather, and from the moment they arrive, Rabbit and Alice are confronted with situations and people who aren’t what they seem. Is the Ichabod Crane-like Scottish conductor with the maimed hand as mean and crazy as he seems? Did the second Bad Thing to happen in room 712—where Alice is staying!—happen or not? Did the big fat lady with the deaf dog have anything to do with it? Is the new head of Statewide really a psychopath? I will spare the reader the suspense here and answer with an emphatic “Yes.” She’s one of those villains whose comeuppance—which couldn’t possibly be too ghastly—the reader prays for.
All the while Alice, a somewhat insecure girl who hides her insecurities with an outsized personality and an outsized voice, strives to get to the bottom of it all. Rabbit, having come to terms with his gayness, is more interested in getting next to a handsome tenor who looks like Ralph Macchio and standing up to the screwy conductor. How folks cope, or not, keeps the reader turning the pages of Racculia’s weirdly enjoyable and fast-paced mystery.