book reviews by Althea

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen **

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Playing with Fire
Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, sometimes I get curious about these big, bestselling authors. I knew that Tess Gerritsen is a big name, and the blurb for this book sounded right up my alley: music, antique shops, history, a possible diabolical/supernatural element, and “acts of surprising violence.”

The book does have all those things, but taken together, I think they give the wrong impression.

I would highly recommend this book for fans of “Sarah’s Key.” It features the same combination of elements: the horrors of WWII intruding into mundane, modern life, in a highly sentimental manner. Clearly, it works for many, many people. “Sarah’s Key” is very highly rated. (Even the movie is highly rated.) For me, I didn’t feel that either story was executed with the finesse that such subjects deserve. Neither achieved the depth of meaning that they’re aiming for. I have to admit, in this book, there was a moment where I got a bit teary… but then the rational part of my head kicked in and I felt a bit disgusted with myself for letting the ‘glurge’ get to me.

The basics: Violinist Julia finds an intriguing piece of handwritten and challenging music in an antique store. However, after she plays it for the first time, she begins to believe that her toddler daughter hates her and is capable of depraved violence. Is something wrong with the child? Or is it all in Julia’s mind? After all, when Julia was young, her mother went crazy…

Meanwhile, back in the years leading up to WWII, a young Jewish composer (it’s pretty obvious that he’s the source of the music) falls in love with his Gentile colleague and maintains a sense of denial about how bad life is about to get for those of his heritage.

The ideas aren’t bad, but it just ended up feeling a bit paint-by-number.

Many thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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