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Playing with Fire  By  cover art

Playing with Fire

By: Tess Gerritsen
Narrated by: Julia Whelan,Will Damron
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Publisher's Summary

In a masterful standalone thriller by New York Times bestselling author of the Rizzoli&Isles series, Tess Gerritsen, a mother is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time violinist Julia Ansdell picked up the "Incendio Waltz" in a darkened antique shop in Rome, she knew it was a strikingly unusual composition. The minor key and complex feverish arpeggios have a life of their own. But when she plays the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her small daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. When she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a heart-stoppingly dark secret that not only dates back to the horrors of the Holocaust, but also directly involves a dangerously powerful family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

©2015 Tess Gerritsen (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

What listeners say about Playing with Fire

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Somewhat off-key

This is the second book in a row I’ve read that has dual story lines whose tone and atmosphere clash with each other as if written by separate authors. In this case, a current day story focuses on a haunting piece of music that appears to have near magical sway over some who hear it, leading to unexplained violent acts. Violinist Julia’s attempts to find the music’s secrets cause those closest to her to suspect her of being insane. The behavior of the principal players did not seem genuine, especially Julia’s husband, and the plot devices that tried to rationalize the behavior just muddied up the story.

The second story line takes us to WWII Italy and the composer of the music. His story is familiar to anyone who has read any Holocaust stories. It is moving as all such stories are moving, but there is nothing here to make this story unique.

Forcing these two threads together was a stretch that never really made a convincing connection. The narration was just ok. Julia Whelan was unfortunately horrible at character voices, especially any male voice. Will Damron was better, but his female voices were also lacking, though not as egregious as his female counterpart. I’ll give this a 3 since I was able to finish it and the ending was satisfactory. What probably lifted this up the most was the inclusion of musical interludes and at the end a full performance of the music in the story – I wish I knew who wrote it because it really is lovely.

93 people found this helpful

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Playing with Fire

I have a habit of picking up books of my favorite authors without reading the description. So with that in mind I assume this was another Rizzoli and Isles book. It took a few chapters before I realized what I was reading was a stand alone book. I must say I enjoyed it enormously! Very lovely book. I would encourage others to read it even if they are not fans of the R&I series. The mix of music and history was enchanting.

41 people found this helpful

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Playing With Fire (Can be hard for some to handle)

Now this is something everyone should read!! What an amazing, true and horrible ( because humanity can be so cruel) adventure!! Couldn't put this one down, couldn't stop listening!!
I couldn't figure out how Tess Gerritsen would meld the main story into the back story OR was it the back story (the main story) into the present !!
I don't usually like music or other sounds in the narration, but this was done very, very well!! Loved the music at the end!!
Ironic that my son is also going to New England Conservatory of Music (Bass)
Narration was excellent!

41 people found this helpful

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Gripping, haunting and exquisitely delivered.

A mystery turned thriller as well as a tale about love and the passion and power of music, the story takes place both in current day America and in Italy and during the years in Italy, WW II.
While on tour in Italy, a young woman, wife, mother and professional violinist, purchases an old book of gypsy melodies and finds an original, unpublished, hand written composition. The events which follow are entwined throughout with the story of the young Jewish composer. This book gripped me within the first chapter and did not let go. The audio version is a must-have. The background insertions of the violin music had me captured throughout, yearning to hear more. Long after the last word was spoken and the last note played I stayed in the story. It held me captive.It will be awhile before this tale relaxes it's hold over me.

32 people found this helpful

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Coulda Been Better

Not a bad read, but an average one, especially given the quality of the author's other stand alones... The historical look backs are the best part of the book, and possibly saves the whole w/ an excellent and rich little bit of storytelling... The contemporary sections were so so and felt uneven... The ending was better and had an unexpected little twist that was deftly done... The narration was good enough, but the female narrator did a poor male voice and should have stuck w/ speaking in her own voice... Decent enough quick easy read, but just...

30 people found this helpful

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Heartbreaking

I'm a fan of Gerritsen. This story has touched me, as a Jew and as a music lover. Thank you, Tess, for writing both.

26 people found this helpful

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Absolutely outsanding!

Would you consider the audio edition of Playing with Fire to be better than the print version?

Yes, the narration was very good.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Playing with Fire?

The flashbacks to the 1940s and the lives of the Jews in Italy.

What does Julia Whelan and Will Damron bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Emotion of the moment.

Any additional comments?

I love Tess Gerritsen's books ... and this is one of the best she has written!

19 people found this helpful

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Beautiful - Haunting - Suspenseful

I loved this book and thought that it was beautifully written and narrated.

Woven between the present and the past, it was intriguing to listen to and difficult to leave once it ended. Moreover, the fact that it was essentially historical fiction with an overarching musical foundation, accompanied by the prominent presence of the tragic and horrific mistreatment of Italian Jews during WW II made it even more compelling. For me, the true test of what makes a book a five star read is that I can't wait to reach the ending but am very depressed when I do because it means that I'm no longer a part of the characters' lives.

I highly recommend "Playing with Fire", especially for classical music lovers, lovers of intrigue, as well as lovers of historical fiction, particularly the Holocaust.

16 people found this helpful

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Slow Burn

I suppose I have come to expect more from Tess Gerritsen. Although this book has its moments and an admittedly poignant story line, it nevertheless lacks the snappy dialogue, nuanced character development and dramatic tension characteristic of her Rizzoli and Isles novels. The story of the Holocaust, this time as it occurred in Italy, has been told to much better effect in other works and the forced connection of that storyline with the modern day one only tends to trivialize the tragedy. The "surprise" ending feels like a cop-out. Ms. Gerritsen is capable of much better.

14 people found this helpful

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Playing with Fire

Love the story line, the history aspect was fantastic! Overall a great way to spend a day.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 10-31-15

Reaching Some Higher Grace Notes.

I’m not quite sure why I chose this book as my first from Tess Gerritsen but I am genuinely glad that I did. This is a beautiful story split between the present day and the troubled city of Venice during the second world war. It is a haunting story centered around a tragic piece of music written by a young Jewish composer. The dual narration works very well to set the atmosphere and Gerritsen’s efficient prose moves the two stories along at a brisk pace with no padding or tangents.

The two strands are beautifully woven together and drawn to a conclusion that pulls few punches. There is no attempt to sugar coat the horrors that the Jewish people suffered which gives the story a genuine power and gravitas that could easily have been missed. This is a moving book; a tale of modern life and how it can never really escape the past that formed it. Gerritsen has done the research and produced a thoroughly satisfying tale that fits well within the events of history. No simple task with such sensitive subject matter.

Bravo!

9 people found this helpful

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  • The Pughs
  • 01-11-16

love Gerritsen

another smashing gerritsen book! havent read one i haven't liked yet! waiting for tge next book already!

1 person found this helpful

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  • mgemelia
  • 11-13-15

Playing with fire

An absolutely superb story brilliant ending as you would expect from this author. A must read/listen

1 person found this helpful

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  • Christineb
  • 10-12-22

Narration better than storyline

Felt the story a bit dull and brief Not enough substance and the ending was so abrupt however lm a huge fan of the narrators The music was a nice touch

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  • A Regular Customer of Amazon
  • 08-11-21

Not the best from Tess

Not keen on the narration. The story line was a little weak too. By no means one of her best.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-12-21

Playing with Fire

A very gripping story.
You can't imagine how such awful events took place but they did.

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  • Anita
  • 01-21-21

Extraordinary beautiful

I have listen to the whole Rizzoli and Illse eries and fell in love with the writer. I could imagine a better book
But this book is absolutely my favorite book by Tess Gerritsen. I totally fell in love with the characters and couldn't put the book down . I listen tru it in 2 settings.
Super extraordinary with all the history and point to true facts of the holocaust.
The production was outstanding

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  • Deberah
  • 12-22-20

Incredible writing!

After finishing this novel I was left with so many emotions, deeply moved but the amazing writing and heart broken by the reminder of the countless cruel and barbaric acts committed against so many, only a short time ago . Also the bravery and kindness of some who stood up for right, often at the cost of their own lives. The shame of being part of a race that could be responsible for such horror. Though much of the novel I could not stop the tears, the reminder of the past in such a deeply moving novel was so moving. A must for anyone to read or listen to.

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  • ceebee
  • 01-07-20

Really enjoyable

I found this really informative, as the female character was searching out the history of a Jewish war time composer. I enjoyed this book, though I am a Tess Gerritson fan.

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  • JJ Wachter
  • 01-06-20

Powerful though a little too compleasent..

... On the blue eyed characters. I was immediately disturbed by the depiction of the little blond girl with blue eyes doing bad things like it was utterly unlikely to be it.. Why not red hair, grey eyes or darker? In the end there will always be a Laura, a Capobianco, etc. to light the way... Not true. But I was transported by the musicality of the tale as it transported me in enchanted (sacred or cursed) places with a perfect timing.

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  • Kristin
  • 08-14-19

gripping

loved every moment of this story. the creepy beginning, the compelling middle and the unexpected end. Tess is quickly becoming my favourite author.

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  • HJ
  • 10-02-16

Loved it

Great story and easy to listen to. Just love anything by Tessa Gerristen! Not her usual kind of storyline. Couldn't stop listening to be honest

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  • Lisa
  • 06-21-16

Fabulous

Held me captive from start to finish, having the music intensified the story. Fabulous read