Book Review – PLAYING WITH FIRE by Tess Gerritsen – New Release

Playing with Fire

In a shadowy antiques shop in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell happens upon a curious piece of music—the Incendio waltz—and is immediately entranced by its unusual composition. Full of passion, torment, and chilling beauty, and seemingly unknown to the world, the waltz, its mournful minor key, its feverish arpeggios, appear to dance with a strange life of their own. Julia is determined to master the complex work and make its melody heard.

Back home in Boston, from the moment Julia’s bow moves across the strings, drawing the waltz’s fiery notes into the air, something strange is stirred—and Julia’s world comes under threat. The music has a terrifying and inexplicable effect on her young daughter, who seems violently transformed. Convinced that the hypnotic strains of Incendio are weaving a malevolent spell, Julia sets out to discover the man and the meaning behind the score.

Her quest beckons Julia to the ancient city of Venice, where she uncovers a dark, decades-old secret involving a dangerously powerful family that will stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Published: October 27, 2015

Amazon / Amazon UK


My Review:

This book is a departure in style for Tess Gerritsen, who is well known for her Rizzoli & Isles series. The story is told in two distinct viewpoints. Julia’s part is in first person, takes place in the US, and is current. Lorenzo’s part is in third person, and takes place in 1938 Italy against the backdrop of WWII. I don’t typically like such extreme, alternating timelines, as the constant shifts can make it hard to find a foothold in the story. I admit to an irritated grumble when I first realized the story was written this way. But my grumbling proved unfounded. Gerritsen is simply a master storyteller, and I would follow her anywhere she leads.

Val is still not looking at me. The silence grows so thick between us that it will turn solid if I don’t cut through it now. “What aren’t you telling me?” I ask quietly.

The characters are lovable, flawed, intriguing, and perfectly real. There is depth to their personalities. We learn about their hopes and their fears. I cared about what happened to them all.

Lorenzo’s father said: “Surely this is just a temporary measure. An empty gesture to curry favor with Berlin.”

The plot surprised me with its layers and intensity. So much is touched on here, all interwoven so that the storylines collide and mesh, dragging us into the darkness and teasing us with a bit of light. The content is compelling and thought-provoking, without ever feeling overwhelming.

I feel as if I’ve been erased from our family, and if I look down, I’ll find my arms are fading to invisibility.

I loved the ending, which was another surprise in this twisting tale.

“Beware the ignorant, Lorenzo. They’re the most dangerous enemy of all, because they are everywhere.”

This is not a light read. This one will tug at your heartstrings, make you uncomfortable, and make you feel. An unforgettable journey that I recommend.


Thanks for reading. 🙂