Playing with Fire

Given the opportunity from Net Galley for an advance reading copy of a novel by the creator of Rizzoli and Iles that will be released on October 27, I couldn’t resist. I was due a light fun mystery with quirky characters. Guess again!

In Playing with Fire, a stand-alone thriller that is not part of the Rizzoli and Iles series, Tess Gerritsen creates a darker world that begins with Julia’s last afternoon in Rome in the present day as she looks in an antique store for a souvenir of her visit. “From the doorway I can already smell the scent of old books, a perfume of crumbling pages and time-worn leather.”

Julia has already bought gifts for her husband and daughter. An Italian book with crumbing paper, the word Gypsy on its cover, and the image of a shaggy haired man makes the perfect keepsake for this violinist to carry home. But it will be the sheet of manuscript paper that drops from the book with a handwritten musical composition that will lead her into conflict at home and a threat on her life. The title of the piece, Incendio, sets the stage for Julia to tell her story.

A different narrative told by Lorenzo, a Jewish violinist, goes back in time and place to Venice leading up to and during the time of World War II. Both stories are compelling and left me resistant to her switch from one to the other character at crucial times and very curious about how the author was going to bring them together to a satisfying close. (She did.)

My preconceived notion missed the mark. There was nothing light or fun and no quirky people. Instead, there was an intriguing mystery shaped around an unusual piece of music with well-drawn characters that I cared about. The author’s note gives the source for the very real places and events that triggered her idea for the novel. Its authenticity includes the often overlooked discrimination given to Gypsy people in that era.

Rizzoli and Iles are fun people to be around, but I can let them go when their story is over. I’ve felt myself turning back to Julia and Lorenzo long after I switched my Kindle to the next book. Not what I expected. Not disappointed.