Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
This was my first Tess Gerritsen book and I enjoyed it very much. It was released as an audiobook in 2015 and performed brilliantly by Julia Whalen and Will Damron.
Playing With Fire is two interwoven stories from different times. Julia Ansdell is a professional violinist living in present day America with her husband, Rob and three-year old daughter, Lily. While on a visit to Rome Julia finds an old book of music in an antique shop, which contains a hand written piece of music; a waltz entitled Incendio, composed by L Todesco. As she reads the music, desperate to test the notes on her violin, she knows she must have it.
Back at home with her daughter close by, Julia decides to play Incendio. She struggles to make sense of the notes as the music becomes frantic and uncontrolled. Lily has a totally unexpected and violent reaction to the music but seems unaware of it afterwards. She has another, more vicious reaction during the second time Julia attempts to play the waltz. Lily is seen by a doctor and psychiatrist, but it is Julia’s sanity which called into question after it’s discovered her mother had a history of mental illness. Julia becomes convinced the music is somehow the catalyst for her daughter’s behaviour and, afraid for herself and Lily, begins an investigation which takes her on a journey she could never have imagined.
Rob helps me wash the cat’s blood from the patio. Poor old Juniper is now wrapped in a black trash bag, awaiting burial. We’ve dug the hole for his grave in the far corner of the yard, behind the lilac bush, so I will not have to look at it whenever I come into the garden. Juniper was eighteen years old and almost blind, a gentle companion who deserves a better eternity than a trash bag, but I was too shaken to come up with any alternative.
As war threatens Europe, Italian born Jew, Lorenzo Todesco is living in Venice with his family. He is a composer and violinist and is asked to play a duet with the daughter of his father’s good friend. As he and Laura practice for the musical competition they form a growing attachment. But WWII is imminent and many Jews are fleeing the country. Lorenzo’s family refuse to believe there is any danger but the night of the competition begins the changes which tear Lorenzo’s and Laura’s lives apart.
The research for this story is evident in the descriptions of the horrors visited upon the Italian Jewish community by the German and Italian SS. Non Jewish people turn against former friends and neighbours, anxious for their own safety. The opposite side of the coin were those who risked everything by assisting whoever and whenever they could; sheltering, feeding or helping those in peril to escape. Lorenzo’s story is powerful, haunting and poignant, written sympathetically, and brings home once more the terrible toll of war and persecution. Although there have been many stories of the Holocaust, this takes a slightly different angle and a more personal approach. The story sits well within the historical account of events.
I enjoyed the mix of past and present and the way the two storylines melded. Julia’s story is told in the first person and Lorenzo’s in the third. A combination of thriller and love story, I was engaged from the start. A surprising ending with everything coming together nicely, but after the tension and suspense of the narrative I would have liked a stronger ending; that is to say, less explanatory passages and more actions. An excellent narration by Julia Whalen and Will Damron, both bringing so much emotion and passion into both stories, especially Lorenzo’s, giving it that added extra.
Violin music was added to the narration at specific points and Tess Gerritsen composed the music used for Incendio.
What if your child wanted you dead?
Julia is terrified by her daughter’s aggressive behaviour. Lily has changed from an angelic little girl into someone she is afraid to be alone with.
What scares Julia most, though, is that she knows why Lily is acting this way, but no-one will believe her. If she is going to help Lily, she will have to find the answers alone, embarking on a search that will take her to the shadowy back streets of Venice.
There Julia finds far more than just answers, and uncovers a heartbreaking, long-buried tale of tragedy and devastation. And this discovery has put her in serious danger . . .
‘I defy you to read the first chapter and not singe your fingers reading all the rest. It’s that compelling. It’s that good.’ DAVID BALDACCI