Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen (♦♦♦♦)

On the last day of a trip to Rome, Massachusetts native Julia Ansdell buys in an antique store a book of gypsy tunes that contains, between its pages, a loose sheet with the hand scribbled score of a haunting waltz that captures Julia's heart. Once at home, Julia struggles to master the waltz titled Incendio, playing it twice before she realizes her three-year-old daughter Lily is displaying aggressive behavior likely triggered by this music. But, what is this music that has such a bizarre effect on her daughter, who is its composer, and more importantly, where does it come from?

As Julia sees her family disintegrating, she embarks on a mission to prove her sanity and seek the answers to the puzzle. But she'll come face to face with an enemy she didn't know she had, intent on silence her, for Incendio is the only existing link between a family patriarch and the fate of a gifted violinist in the last years of WWII.

I truly enjoyed Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen. It captured my imagination as much for the modern (medical) mystery, as for the parallel account of the violinist before and during the war. Most books treating this topic go on at length, so it is remarkable that Gerritsen managed to write such a powerful story in under 300 pages. I cared about all the characters and their fates.

Playing with Fire turned out to be a learning experience as well. I didn't know that Italy had a transitional concentration camp--Risiera di San Sabba in Trieste--that became an extermination camp towards war's end. The account of what happened at San Sabba was sordid and horrifying.

It never ceases to amaze me how blindsided Jews were by the Holocaust. It is as if that measure of evil couldn't be fathomed. But the truth is that the signs had been there from early on, so the question becomes why did they miss it?

DISCLAIMER: I received from the publisher a free Galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Comments

  1. You know, I've never read Tess Gerritsen. Not sure why.

    In answer to your question, I think the people of that era missed the warning signs of evil for the same reasons that we miss them today. For one thing, it is hard to take the peddlers of hate seriously because they are such obvious buffoons. We wonder how anyone could be swayed by them. Moreover, we are too busy living our lives to be caught up in the frenzied obsessions of the haters.

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    1. I've read another one by Tess Gerritsen: The Bone Garden.
      Regarding your comment, I agree in part, but I don't think they were so busy living their lives that they didn't pay attention. I think that you just can't imagine that level of evil. On the other hand, that kind of hatred wasn't historically new for Jews; there was a holocaust during the Middle Ages, persecution, people having to hide their religious faiths, so I just can't understand how they chose to ignore all those warning signs. Furthermore, when you start seeing one movement sweeping half the world like a domino effect, you have to become concerned whether you like it or not.

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  2. Interesting debate. It could be as simple as failing to learn from history. In Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern fantasy series, she took up that problem and showed how the founders of Pern created certain safeguards so that a recurring dangerous event would be remembered and prepared for during the generations between the events. I have always been impressed by that idea.

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    1. I think the have those safeguards now, Judy, to ensure it doesn't happen again, but it's true it may have been failure to learn. I know of people and countries with poor historical memory; it is possible that they failed to foresee the reach those events would have on them.

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  3. What an interesting sounding novel. I've not read this author but I'm curious about this one.
    I guess in relation to the debate above - I like to think that most people can't comprehend of such hatred and evil.
    Lynn

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    1. This novel was very good, Lynn, but there's stuff that is difficult to read due to its graphic nature--like things that happened at the concentration camp. I have watched several movies and read several books on that topic, and there were some new revelations in this one that I never knew before.

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