Playing With Fire, by Tess Gerritsen

Shelf Indulgence

Shelf Indulgence review

The multilayered narrative in this Shelf Indulgence choice was so rewarding. In a dual narrative and timeline, American violinist, Julia, discovers Incendio, an old unpublished waltz, while in Venice. From the instant she plays it, the music has a sinister impact on her life, putting her in fear of her three-year-old daughter. The second storyline follows Jewish Venetian luthier and composer, Lorenzo, during Mussolini’s rise. When Lorenzo is asked to practise a duet with headstrong cellist, Laura, he is captivated. Gerritsen, an accomplished musician herself, writes persuasively and with terrific emotion about the bond that grows between the duettists, so that it seems natural that the passion these twin souls feel for their music will turn to a love for each other that transcends the genocide of WWII.

This is very different from Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles crime series. Here, she plays deliciously with form and genre, creating a novel that evolves as you read: part mystery, part psychological suspense, with a dash of the supernatural thrown in. An achingly sad tale of Jewish persecution, but also of human decency and quiet rejection of evil. The final chapters resolve the terrifying behaviour of Julia’s child in a very satisfying way, and while another element does stretch credibility, it doesn’t spoil the novel. I am a self-confessed slow reader, but I sat up late and woke early, finishing this book in (for me) a record three days.

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