Book Review: Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen ***

UK Publication Date: 5 Nov 2015. 288 pages.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series so it was a great surprise when I found myself enjoying Playing with Fire, a standalone novel. It is a story of two violinists. One present day, living in America, and the other living in Italy in the years up to and including World War 2.

Julia Ansdell has been in Rome performing with her quartet. While she is shopping for a few souvenirs to take home to husband Rob and three year old Lily, she comes across an antique shop and buys an old book of gypsy music that also contains a hand written manuscript of a waltz. Intrigued by the music she spends far too much on it and takes it home.

Settled back at home she starts to play the Insendio waltz. It is challenging and completely takes her over. She is broken away from the music with the realisation that her daughter has stabbed the cat. Not just once but three times. Fearing that her daughter is showing signs of psychosis she starts to watch her carefully. The next time Julia plays the music she becomes similarly enraptured but comes to when her daughter stabs her in the leg with a piece of broken glass. Convinced that it is the music that is haunted Julia embarks on a journey to find the composer of the waltz.

The story alternates between Julia’s point of view and that of Leonardo Todesco. A young Jew growing up in Mussolini’s Italy. Leonardo’s father is a luthier and runs a small but thriving music business in Venice. Leonardo is a musical virtuoso and in love with the beautiful cellist Laura. Gradually the realities of the impending war find Leonardo and his family being transported to a concentration camp.

I’m not usually a fan of historical novels but the subject of this one proved quite gripping. I knew very little about the treatment of the Italian Jews and it was a fascinating if ghoulish read.

The ending was quite shocking and a day after I’ve finished the book I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not. I won’t spoil it for you but suffice to say that it really wasn’t a direction that I thought the story was going to take. It is quite an engaging read and the descriptions of Venice are lovely

Supplied by Net Galley and the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You can find the book here: Playing with Fire

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