In Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen, musician Julia Ansdell visits an antiques shop in Rome where she finds and buys an unusual piece of music, the Incendio waltz. This music seems to adversely affect Julia’s young daughter, Lily, and Julia discovers the music is connected to a Jewish family in Italy that suffered the horrors of World War II. Julia also faces some pretty challenging personal issues.
This is the story about how a musical piece connects the Ansdell, Todesco, and Balboni families, and the part a prominent family in Italy played in the Holocaust. The characters are well-developed, the settings (Massachusetts and Italy) are wonderful, and the historical setting is interesting. The author moves between the present and World War II smoothly, and it can be tricky to move between different time periods. The characters are fictional, but the historical events are accurate. Most of the information about World War II involves Germany or Poland, so it is interesting to have a story set in Italy during World War II. One doesn’t hear a lot about what happened in Italy during World War II, and part of the reason for that could be that the Jews had been in Italy for centuries by this time and were well integrated into Italian society. However, the anti-Jewish propaganda eventually spread to Italy and the same horrible events that occurred in Germany, Poland and elsewhere took place in Italy also.
I love the Rizzoli and Isles books by Ms. Gerritsen, but this is an excellent stand-alone story that isn’t part of the Rizzoli and Isles series. I would recommend Playing with Fire. The historical setting alone makes this book worth reading.