Book Review: Playing with Fire (Gerritsen)

Playing With Fire © 2015

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Literary Fiction

Subgenre: Psychological Thrillers, Suspense / Women’s Fiction – Contemporary Women

Reviewer: Sara

Book received by: Gift (not from author)

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The lives of two musicians of different eras are brought together by a single piece of music. For violinist Julia Ansdell, it begins in Roman antiques shop with the hand-written score of Incendio, a waltz tucked into a book of music. From the first time she plays the piece, strange and disturbing events begin to plague her life, including frightening and violent behavior by her young daughter. Convinced the history of the waltz is the key to removing these new terrors from her life, Julia begins her hunt for the composer. What she discovers is a closely secret of a powerful Italian family, who will stop at nothing to keep the past, and ugly truth of their family history, from being revealed.


Busy moms (and dads), this is a brilliant thriller by a powerhouse writer. Tess Gerritsen is well-known for her Rizzoli & Isles series (and spin-off TV show), but she reminds readers of her impressive talent and command of suspense writing in Playing with Fire. The book is told from alternating perspectives, first of violinist Julia, and then violinist and composer Lorenzo, their stories separated by more than seventy years. Dr. Gerritsen keeps the reader engaged with hooks and cliff hangers at the end of each chapter. She develops the characters with care, fast enough to have reader’s invested in their stories right away, but with plenty of details woven through the book.

The plot is well orchestrated, and the stories of Julia and Lorenzo are so compelling the book is hard to put down. Dr. Gerritsen has the ability to end her chapters such that you don’t want to stop reading. She builds tension throughout, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. One of the features of her books, which I particularly enjoy, are the medical storylines she incorporates. The end, while a resolution of all the plot lines, is hardly a happily-ever-after for all. It’s heartbreaking but realistic. After reading and mentally ruminating on Playing with Fire, I believe that a happier end for all would have been inauthentic and detracted from the overall story.

Perhaps best of all, the song at the center of this thriller exists! Composed by none other than Tess Gerritsen herself (with cadenza composed by Yi-Ja Susanne Hou). Listen to a snippet here!

For those who are a fan of Gerritsen or suspense/thriller novels, this may be one of her best yet, and is a great read. I enjoy the Rizzoli & Isles series, but have wondered if they (like the books of many other best-selling authors of her genre) will reach a point at which they are too formulaic to keep my interest. If Playing with Fire is any indication of what Dr. Gerritsen is capable of after twenty years on the NYT bestseller list, I’m pretty excited. It suggests she has plenty of compelling stories yet to tell.

Happy trails and may the good books be plentiful!


Have you read Playing with Fire? What did you think? How would you compare it to Dr. Gerritsen’s others books?

Comments are welcome and appreciated!

The Mom Who Runs posts book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Help others find this review by following the links to the review on the respective site and “like” or “vote” for it and many thanks in advance for doing so. 🙂

Featured image: Hardcover jacket
Cover design: Scott Biel
Cover images: (Venice) Matteo Colombo/Moment/Getty Images; (woman) © Ilina Simeonova/Trevillion Images

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Playing with Fire (Gerritsen)

    • Hi, Shari! Thanks for reading and your comments. 😄 It was a VERY cool book. Gerritsen has done multiple POV books before, but this was her first that was part historical fiction. It was a great book! If you give it a read, please let me know how you like it!


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