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.