Playing with Fire
Review: Brian Joss
Tess Gerritsen is better known as the author of the forensic thrillers featuring Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr Maura Isles, although she has written several stand-alone books including Bone Garden and Life Support, among others.
Playing with Fire has two threads using flashbacks: the first theme is about a mysterious piece of music called Incendio that violinist Julia Ansdell finds in a dusty old antique shop in Rome and the back story features Lorenzo Todesco, a talented Jewish violinist who lived in Italy during World War II when the fascists were in power and anti-Semitism was at its peak.
When Julia takes the sheet music back to Boston and starts playing it, strange things start to happen. Lily, her three-year-old daughter, begins to demonstrate violent and abnormal behaviour: Lily stabs Julia in the leg with a shard of glass; kills the family cat and pushes Julia down the stairs. Julia ascribes it to Incendio. But no one seems to take her claims seriously.
Her marriage to Rob is on the verge of collapse and he is seriously thinking of having Julia committed as there is a history of mental instability in her family. But she is determined and returns to Italy to uncover the origins of Incendio with its haunting and strangely beautiful melody.
The trail leads to Venice where she learns the truth but not before putting herself in grave danger. The story highlights the atrocities of the Nazi regime, an innocent love and how a courageous Jewish musician rises above the ugliness of the era but at great cost.
Does Incendio have an evil quality? To reveal more would be a spoiler but there is an unexpected twist. Playing with Fire will hold you in thrall from the first sentence to the last paragraph. Gerritsen, a medical doctor, is also a talented musician and she composed Incendio, which you can hear on iTunes.