I have been a devoted fan of Tess Gerritsen for many many years. In my opinion, her novels will keep you turning the pages until the final page of every book. Looking forward to her next novel was, and is, always something I look forward to reading.
I think Tess Gerritsen is an outstanding novelist and Playing with Fire as the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Will make readers drop everything to immerse themselves in its propulsive dual narrative.”
I found the story mesmerizing at its start. It all begins with a mysterious, loose sheet of music, the protagonist finds in an old book of music in a small old antiques shop on her last day in Rome.
She is a classical violinist and has been playing with her quartet while in Italy and came upon an old antiques shop that drew her inside. The book of music is an Italian edition and is just what she loves ….old music that has been forgotten and deserves to be rediscovered.
As she flips through the pages, a loose page of music falls out andfalls to the floor. The sheet of music is not a part of the book, it is a sheet of manuscript paper, it’s staves of musical notes jotted in pencil. The composition’s title is handwritten in elegantly sweeping letters……
“Incendio”, composed by
It is a beautiful waltz, and as she reads through the music on the page, she can hear the music in her mind and she feels she must have it.
Little did she know, as she walked out of this old antiques shop with the book of music and the mysterious waltz, how her life was about to dramatically change. Oddly , she felt cold in the old musty bookshop, and as she walked outside and glanced back through the dusty window, a shroud of sunlight bounced back at her reflected from the brass medusa head-knocker, she saw the proprietor looking at her just before he drops the shade and disappears from sight.
So begins the dramatic and frightening changes her life will take. She is a professional violinist, married to a wonderful man, they are very much in love and they have a beautiful little girl whom they both adore…..They have the perfect life…
Back home in Boston, Julia Ansdell looks forward to learning the music of “Incendio” and playing it on her violin. The music is an unusual composition full of passion, torment and chilling beauty and, seemingly unknown to the world. The waltz with it’s mournful minor key, it’s feverish arpeggios, Julia is determined to master the complex work and make it’s melody heard.
But, whenever Julia plays the music strange things occur and her world is threatened. The music seems to have a terrifying effect on her young daughter who seems violently transformed by the music. Her young daughter becomes violent and uncontrollable and physically harms Julia.
Julia is beckoned back to the ancient city of Venice where she uncovers a long held secret. The dual narrative in this novel will take you back to Venice and you will discover the lives of a family there, long ago,who are connected to the “Incendio” waltz. You will feel deeply their struggles and their love for each other and, at the same time, you will experience Julia’s struggle to find the truth as her life seems to be unraveling before her eyes.
I really felt myself get into the heart of this story. I love classical music as I play it, somewhat these day, on the piano….I can feel the music come alive in the book and the characters came alive for me also at the same time. I have always been intrigued with Venice….have never been there but it seems mysterious to me and Venice also comes alive on the page.
The two time periods and the dual story lines merging together throughout the novel just kept me drawn to the book.
Italy and Venice during the German occupation opened up new information to me on the Italian Jewish population that I never knew existed. Learning about the people who lived through the inhuman horror of that time was a sorrowful experience and played a dramatic part of the novel. Paralleling it to the present day, as only Tess Gerritsen’s
talent can do, brings it to us, the reader, on the written page. This novel is brimming with psychological suspense and dual narrative emotions. It is a time period during Mussolini’s Italy and a brutal war is taking place in Europe. The masterful crafting of the story lines and the musical descriptions bring the reader deeper into the mystery as it is unfolding.
This is a captivating novel well worth your time. The twist at the end caught me by surprise!
Playing with Fire is an absorbing tale of the hearts of musicians across the world and what their music means to them and us.
If you choose to read this novel you won’t soon forget it!
Check out Playing With Fire book club questions!