Playing With Fire

Author:  Tess Gerritsen

Published By: Ballantine Books

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I'm a great fan of the Rizzoli and Isles television series based on Tess Gerritsen's novels.  I know they are not exactly the same, that the television series is loosely based on the novels, but I have been assured by those who have read the Rizzoli and Isles series of novels that Gerritsen is an excellent writer.  That being said, I decided to try for an unedited advance copy of Playing With Fire, a new stand alone novel by Tess Gerritsen.  I was not disappointed.

                The novel begins with violinist and antique music collector Julia Ansdell purchasing a book of music from a small shop in Rome.  Hidden inside the book is a sheet of handwritten music entitled Incendio.  As Julia reads the notes on the page, she is instantly drawn to the waltz, wondering where it came from, who wrote it and if she could master the complexity of the piece. 

                But when she attempts to perform Incendio, strange things begin to happen.  First, her cat is killed, her four year old daughter found holding the murder weapon.  Then, she is stabbed in the leg, presumably by the same person that killed her cat.  As her home life begins unraveling thanks to the idea that her daughter may be insane, Julia finds that she can no longer resist the need to travel to Rome and discover who the writer of Incendio really is.

                Her secret trip to Rome begins in disaster when she learns that the man who sold her the music book containing Incendio has been murdered and she finds herself becoming a target.  But of what?  What is it about this waltz that has turned Julia's life upside down?  What does it all mean?

                As I began reading Playing With Fire, I was surprised at the supernatural flavor the book begins with.  As Julia begins playing Incendio and bad things begin to happen, the reader gets the distinct feeling that the music is evil in some way...perhaps cursed.  That idea is especially enhanced by the flashbacks to World War II and the life of the man who wrote Incendio, Lorenzo Todesco.  But as the reader continues the journey, on comes the realization that this is a thriller...a mystery the reader must solve along with the protagonist.

                I enjoyed the fact that the book is written in two points of view.  Julia's story, the present, is written in the first person account and Lorenzo's story, the past, is written in the third person point of view.  In this way, the past never gets confused with the present and, though in the end their stories unite in the one piece of music, Julia's and Lorenzo's stories never get mixed up.

                In writing this novel, Tess Gerritsen offers up a glimpse into her intellect.  The author is actually quite an interesting individual and one can tell from reading this novel that Tess Gerritsen has great knowledge about many things, including music, the Italian culture, World War II and Italy's involvement in the rounding up, exportation and imprisonment of Jews.

                Playing With Fire is a captivating thriller filled with twists and turns.  The writing is such that I couldn't put the book down.  I was so invested in the outcome of the story that I finished the book in one day.  This is definitely a one-shot novel worth reading.


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