From Publishers Weekly
Ragtime suffuses the very air of 1899 Sedalia, Mo., in Karp's sweet-natured historical featuring Scott Joplin and the fictional 16-year-old white boy Brun Campbell, who ignores the racial divide in his determination to play piano Joplin-style. Brun runs away from home in Oklahoma and stumbles on the body of a young woman just hours after arriving in Sedalia. He carelessly grabs a locket and a money clip off the corpse, but soon learns that the objects will incriminate Joplin. To protect his idol, Brun decides to find out who the real murderer is. Karp (First, Do No Harm
) does a wonderful job of depicting a town steeped in music history and in portraying Joplin, but the mystery plot pivots on a point that most readers will find hard to swallow, and the identity of the killer comes as little surprise. (Nov.)
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Real people, famous and not, comprise most of the cast of this mystery, set in Sedalia, Missouri, known in the late 1800s as a center for ragtime. Teenage pianist Brun loves ragtime, but a white kid isn't supposed to play "colored music." Stubborn as well as talented, he runs off to Sedalia to find Scott Joplin. On his first night in town, he comes across the body of dead woman. Broke, he makes off with a money clip he spots near her body, only later realizing that his discovery links the gifted, driven Joplin to the killing. Racism is a huge part of the story, and Karp weaves the theme thoroughly and convincingly into his depiction of the music business and of Sedalia society at the time. His large cast could have been trimmed, and his characters frequently run to type, but that's not enough to sink this well-intentioned and generally involving novel, which clearly shows the best and worst of human nature in days gone by. Stephanie ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved