A while ago I saw a movie, The Red Violin, which followed a violin through many owners, beginning with it's maker, who had varnished it with the blood of his just deceased wife. The violin made beautiful, tragic music and all the owners died badly. That film could have been an adaptation of Accordion Crimes, changed by Hollywood to a more sexy musical instrument and given all new characters and dialog, but keeping the core concept.
Instead of being bloodstained, the accordion that Annie Proulx has written into the center of this series of vignettes has fourteen one thousand dollar bills glued to the inside of it's bellows. Nobody discovers the money until the last page of the book, when one bill turns up in the hands of three children who want to use it to buy soft drinks at a country store.
Even minor characters, appearing only for a page or three, tend to die badly in Accordion Crimes, like the truck driver known as Snakes: "Some year or two later, Snakes, using a climbing rope with a single core in a color pattern of purple, neon pink, teal and fluorescent yellow, hung himself in the cab of his truck. A note on the seat read: "I'm not going to wear glasses." "
The green, two row, button accordion which is the star of Accordion Crimes was built in Sicily in the mid nineteenth century, by a man who then immigrated to New Orleans. He was soon disposed of, setting the tone for the book. The man was killed in a prison riot - citizens of New Orleans break in to the prison and kill a group of Italians being held there, even after they are found not guilty of conspiring to murder the chief of police. The accordion was stolen and the thief soon murdered and dumped into the Mississippi river. This sort of thing goes on, through many generations of unfortunate owners, until the mid 1990s.
I had to keep reading to find out what happened to the money, pasted in the bellows by one of it's owners, a Tejano musician, a waiter during the day, who was paid in thousand dollar bills to pass documents from an obvious spy to various contacts who would then, cross over into Mexico.
Accordion Crimes is not light summer reading but it is well written and will hold your interest. It may turn you against accordion music again, though.
This post is in the 78th
Published at Colloquium