Book Review: Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Playing with FirePlaying with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m really struggling on how to rate this story. I do love Tess Gerritsen and I think her writing is fantastic but there was something about this story that just didn’t feel right. I picked it up around 10pm at night after a very long day in the office and kept reading till I finished around 1am so it can’t have been that bad but I was left with this kind of unsatisfactory feeling.


The story starts incredibly well. Violinist Julia Andsell is browsing antique shops in Italy when she comes across an old book of music with a hand written page within. Unable to resist she buys the book and returns to her husband and 3 year old daughter in Boston. After spending the day with her daughter Lily she decides to try playing the piece. When she does however Lily exhibits some disturbing behaviour that gives her cause for concern.

She speaks to a doctor who tells her not to worry but a little while later when practicing the piece again Lily attacks her. Julia is positive her child has changed and wants to hurt her but no one believes her. Is there something wrong with Lily, could the music be responsible for the change or is everything in Julia’s head as everyone else seems to think? She is positive the music is responsible so is determined to find out it’s history.

This leads her back to Italy and the story of composer and violinist Lorenzo who was a Jew in Venice during the second World War. It seems however that someone doesn’t want her to find out the truth.


Despite what the blurb on Amazon and GoodReads may say this is really two stories wrapped up in one. On one hand there is the story of Julia and her possibly demonic child and on the other the story of Lorenzo. The book is actually told from the dual perspective of each with alternating sections.

While I mostly enjoyed both stories I felt like the alternating sections didn’t quite work. Julia’s sections were more psychological thriller whereas Lorenzo’ s were about the horrors of the holocaust with a little bit of doomed love thrown in. Both would no doubt have worked on their own but didn’t mesh well with each other. The tension in Julia’s story was broken and I never really felt the emotion and horror of Lorenzo’s.

The writing is pretty good throughout (I devoured the whole thing in a few hours) but I thought the story and characters lacked the depth they needed to bring out the emotion of the themes. It did start well with a couple of very creepy scenes but after that I think it lost it’s way.

The ending in particular I thought really let it down as it felt like a bit of a cop out and was a little too easy.

Overall, a good enough read but a little bit confused in genre and lacking depth.

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