Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritson


A friend introduced me to the novels by Tess Gerritson some years ago. Most of them I have enjoyed and several of them are reviewed on the site including The Killing Place, and Gravity Of course, Gravity was made into a movie in 2013 starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, tess-gravityTess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D. It was while she was on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction.

Playing With Fire is a stand alone novel, not part of a series, so it is very different and beautifully written. I am quite used to the brilliance of the investigations by Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles so I was keen and curious to see what this novel could bring to the table. I am pleased to say that for the most part, despite being a different style of story, things live up to expectations from this master storyteller.

The novel is told through two separate time frames. First, the author follows Julia Ansdell, a musician who in the last few days of her stay in Rome decides to buy herself a going home present. This present will change her life forever when she lays eyes on a piece of music, ”Incendio Fire” composed by L. Todesco. Juila has never heard of the composer and after reading the notes, she wants nothing more than to play it.

Whe she goes home to Boston, Julia plays it and notices strange and violent incidents occur with her 3 year old daughter Lily. This is a huge shock to Julia, who as come to a shocking conclusion that her young daughter wants to harm her. The only connections playing-with-fireseems to be the song that she plays before each incident. Is Julia losing her mind as her husband Rob thinks or is the answer to be found with the composer. With the help of a friend, Julia travels back to Venice to try to find answers. This is a desperate bid to save her daughter and her sanity.

The second timeline relates to L. Todesco, Lorenzo and his family. They are Jewish and live in Venice in the 1930s and are subjected to great hatred and wrongs at the hands of the Italian Black Shirts.The fate of Lorenzo for one was harrowing as he slowly came to realize how bad the situation was in his home country and that the only way to survive was to leave. These passages were both haunting and beautiful with the love of Lorenzo and Laura.

Having two timelines could of been a recipe for disaster but in the hands of Gerritsen worked brilliantly. Playing With Fire was a great well paced read that will appeal to anyone who enjoys gritty thrillers. I really enjoyed Playing with Fire and I highly recommend it. It would be an excellent novel for a book group.

Valerie Penny


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