Playing with Fire

Tess Gerritsen
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Mar 25, 2016

In Playing with Fire, Tess Gerritsen takes a break from her Rizzoli and Isles series to bring us the tale of two people, separated by over 70 years, who connect through an extraordinary piece of music.

Julia Ansdell is a musician, a violinist. While in Rome, she discovers a book of Gypsy tunes in the window of an antique store. When she picks up the book, a piece of paper falls out. On it is a handwritten composition, entitled Incendio, by L. Todesco.

Looking over this waltz, Julia is unaware of the dramatic and traumatic effect it will have on her and her family. She only knows that she must have this music.

At home with her three-year-old daughter Lily, Julia plays the waltz for the first time. What follows is the beginning of a nightmare that leaves Julia feeling alone and desperate. While she is convinced that the music is evil, those around her – husband, aunt, doctors– are equally convinced that Julia needs psychiatric help.

Julia believes that only by uncovering the history of Incendio will she be able to bring about an end and resolution to her family’s troubles.

Alternating with Julia’s story is the tale of Incendio’s author, Lorenzo Todesco, a young Italian Jew living in Venice in the late 1930’s. Music runs in Lorenzo’s family. When Lorenzo displays a prodigious musical talent at a young age, his grandfather presents him with a family heirloom - a two-hundred-year old violin.

Shortly before going off to study music at the local university, Lorenzo is introduced to Laura, the daughter of an old friend of his grandfather’s. The two young people are entered into a musical competition. Predictably, as they rehearse, their feelings for each other grow.

But these are dangerous times to be a Jew. While Laura is not Jewish, her refusal to let anything stop the two of them from playing together puts them both in danger.

Lorenzo and his family are caught up in the wartime atrocities brought to Italy by the Nazis.

Back in the present and with few clues to go on, Julie races to discover who Lorenzo was and what happened to him.

Fans of Gerritsen’s work should not be disappointed by her latest, intriguing thriller.

Reviewed by Diane H.
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