Review: Playing With Fire – Tess Gerritsen

tess gerritsen playing with fire cover

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light. – via Goodreads

GRADE 8I was so stoked to get approval for this novel, I always enjoy reading something from Gerritsen. What I did not expect was how well this whole book was going to come together. It started innocuously enough, trundling along, nothing special or amazing. Then it got interesting when Julia plays this handwritten piece of music and her three year old daughter kills the family cat. I mean whoa, things escalated quickly. It has this horror/supernatural vibe going for it, and it works for the story. Out of nowhere, the story flips to a character named Lorenzo, and his part of the story is set in Venice in the 1940s. The story takes on a whole new feel altogether, and tells us about a young Italian Jew who is a phenomenal violinist, who is tasked to work with a young woman named Laura to compete in a musical competition. The tone is totally different in Lorenzo’s sections, and the book has another feel altogether when reading Julia’s sections. I was far more engrossed when reading about Lorenzo, his family, his Jewish roots, the Nazis occupying so many of the countries around them and moving in on the Jews, the steadfast Italian belief that they were safe, and would be fine. Having Italy as the backdrop for the Holocaust is something different, a lot of novels concentrate on other areas of that time in history. It gives a different outlook altogether. Reading about Lorenzo and Laura was wonderful – it was not painful, in your face and soppy, but there was such a beautiful relationship that blossomed between them, birthed by music. Being wrenched back into Julia’s present problems of her daughter going scary and insane and violent, it was always a heavy transition to make, but you slip back into it quickly enough. I was enthralled pretty much from the beginning – while Julia and her situation interested me, it was Lorenzo and Venice in the 1940s that enchanted me. The books flows nicely and puts out a beautiful story, interspersed with thrills when you see how the past and the present become woven together. The two differing times really have two totally different feelings, but for me the past side was far more influential, and most of this review refers to that section. The book is chilling, strange, intoxicating, thrilling, romantic. Granted, neither story really needs the other, and Lorenzo’s was definitely the more captivating story (I could have read just about him and his affairs), but the two stories ultimately do come together. The ending was not something I saw coming, and it worked so well. I enjoyed this book far more than I was expecting, and I cannot recommend it enough. It is Gerritsen’s first standalone novel in ages, and definitely her best work in quite some time.

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