I know the author from her Rizzoli & Isles series and some of her earlier novels she wrote. Playing with Fire is a standalone thriller and not at all like all her other books. In a good way. I love the cover, the original as well as the German one. Both have a great motive, both give you the feeling that they show exactly what the summary promises you. And both deliver. As soon as I was able to get my hands on it, I was reading this thriller and finished it frankly said overnight. Yes, this story got me, spoke to my emotions, showed me another side of Germany´s very dark past, and with the writing style Tess Gerritsen has, it turned out to be a fantastic read.

Playing With Fire*
by Tess Gerritsen
Publisher Ballantine Books on October 27, 2015
Genre Thriller
Pages 272
Format Hardcover
Source Publisher

In a shadowy antiques shop in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell happens upon a curious piece of music – the Incendio waltz – and is immediately entranced by its unusual composition. Full of passion, torment, and chilling beauty, and seemingly unknown to the world, the waltz, its mournful minor key, its feverish arpeggios, appear to dance with a strange life of their own. Julia is determined to master the complex work and make its melody heard. Back home in Boston, from the moment Julia´s bow moves across the strings, drawing the waltz´s fiery notes into the air, something strange is stirred – and Julia´s world comes under threat. The music has a terrifying and inexplicable effect on her young daughter, who seems violently transformed. Convinced that the hypnotic strains of Incendio are weaving a malevolent spell, Julia sets out to discover the man and the meaning behind the score. Her quest beckons Julia to the ancient city of Venice, where she uncovers a dark, decades-old secret involving a dangerously powerful family that will stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.
Julia is scared. The waltz she brought home seems to change her daughter, and her marriage as well. And when she hears from her aunt, that there are some dark secrets in her own family, that the mother she never knew was not what she got told all her life and what really happened to her dead brother – she is convinced that this and the waltz is no good combination. But when she is asked to go and talk to a psychologist, she refuses because all her instincts are telling her that this way is wrong. Instead, she is determined to find out the real story behind that waltz. And what she discovers is as frightening as it is deadly.

Tess Gerritsen´s writing style is fantastic. She brings the atmosphere of the time when the Jewish were haunted before and during World War One in a breathtaking way to the reader and shows how a family deals with everything during this scary time. Playing with Fire has two lines of action. One that plays in the present of the story in America and Italy and which shows what Julia goes through, the other plays in Italy around the 1940s and shows the reader the life of Lorenzo. He is the key figure and his story is so heartbreaking and full of emotions, pain, passion, and loyalty that in the end, you can do nothing but cry tears. The author doesn´t use long descriptions or a lot of words to tell this story. She is more to the point is clear and very sensitive sentences, gives only those details that are necessary for the story, and the way she writes you get haunted and completely thrilled.

And in the end, she presents you with an unexpected turn and a solution to all the mysterious things that happened that you can see the connection between the author’s former work as a doctor and her passion for music. Well done!

Tess Gerritsen created some very convincing figures and what the passion for something can achieve. During some scenes I could literally see how a violin is made, could smell the wood, the varnish and all the other things the author let her figures use to take care of their instruments or to build them.

Julia is a normal woman. She knows how to play the violin, practices with passion and wants to be as perfect as possible. That her daughter is there when she practices at home is no reason for her to stop it. She is a devoted mother, wife, and musician and loves to show her little girl the magic music has. 

Lorenzo grew up in a family that builds violins among other instruments made of wood. He shares the same passion as his grandfather does and in his hands the violin does magic. He has a very rare gift because he can speak through music. In his hands, the violin becomes alive. As a young man, he is a bit shy, very polite, and rather adores the woman he loves from a distance than telling her about his feelings.

I am thrilled and speechless at the same time. This thriller is, as shocking as the plot is, very emotional, haunting and brings time back to life, that should not be forgotten. For Tess Gerritsen fans a must-read, for all the others worth being discovered. Highly recommended.

Happy reading

Deutsche Rezension

Der Thriller wird erzählt in der Gegenwart durch Julia und in der Vergangenheit erzählt durch Lorenzo was in Italien kurz vor dem Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges und während des Krieges passiert. Dabei wird eine Seite gezeigt, die nicht nur diese dunkle Zeit in den Fokus rückt, sondern vor allem all diejenigen, die versucht haben den Juden zu helfen. Auf welche Art und Weise auch immer.

Tess Gerritsens Stil ist einfach, eindringlich und erschafft eine unglaublich emotionale Spannung. Nicht nur bei den Figuren und dem, was diese erleben, auch der Leser bleibt davon nicht verschont. Sie schreibt einfühlsam, feinfühlig und bringt die Dinge mit Stil und Niveau auf den Punkt. Kein Wort zu wenig, keines zu viel. Umso überraschender ist der Schluss. Hier bringt die Autorin die Magie der Musik mit ihrem Beruf zusammen und gibt dem Thriller ein logisches und äußerst gelungenes Ende.

Starke Frauen die einem grausamen Schicksal trotzen, sich wehren und alles tun, um es sich selbst und ihren Lieben so angenehm wie nur möglich zu machen. Dabei stets ihre schützende Hand über die Menschen haltend, die ihnen nahe stehen. Überzeugender und realistischer können Figuren nicht ausgearbeitet sein.

Julia wird von dem bedrohlichen Gefühl nicht mehr los gelassen, dass ihre eigene Tochter womöglich eine dunkle Seite haben könnte. Eine Seite, die sie, falls ja, von ihrer Mutter geerbt hat. Denn diese hat ein schreckliches Geheimnis in ihrer eigenen familiären Vergangenheit. Für Julia bedeutet dies, sie muss unbedingt den Grund finden, warum plötzlich all diese schrecklichen Dinge geschehen. Mit Mut, Ideenreichtum und unerschrocken geht sie Stück für Stück den Dingen auf den Grund und offenbart eine tödliche als auch bedrohliche Geschichte.

Hochemotional, absolut packend und spannend. Die äußerst dunkle Vergangenheit der Nazizeit hat den bedrohlichen Unterton noch deutlich verstärkt und wurde gekonnt von Tess Gerritsen von einer etwas anderen Seite beleuchtet. Höchst empfehlenswert.

*I read the German edition new release by Limes on July 25, 2016

Tess Gerritsen
Tess Gerritsen ©Derek Henthorn

New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen earned international acclaim for her first novel of suspense, Harvest. She introduced Detective Jane Rizzoli in The Surgeon (2001) and Dr. Maura Isles in The Apprentice (2002) and has gone on to write numerous other titles in the celebrated Rizzoli & Isles series. A physician, Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine.


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