Playing With Fire by Tess Gerristen (Transworld)

What if your child wanted you dead?

Julia doesn’t understand what is happening to her daughter, but she thinks she knows what’s causing it. She is terrified for Lily, and for herself, but what scares her more is that no one believes her.

If she is going to help Lily, she will have to find the answers alone, embarking on a search that will take her to the shadowy back streets of Venice.

There, Julia uncovers a heartbreaking, long-buried tale of tragedy and devastation – a discovery that puts her in serious danger. Some people will do anything in their power to keep the truth silent…

I have never read anything by Tess Gerristen before but saw Playing With Fire on NetGalley and decided to check her work out, after all, she is the author behind the Rizzol and Isles series and that’s another long set of thriller fiction on my to-read list. But for now the standalone suspense novel seemed like a nice tester, and on the whole, it worked well, with a fairly solid narration along with a pace that kept me hooked from start to finish.

The book itself has an interesting mystery at its heart as it asks and answers the question, What if your Child wanted you dead? The unfortunate soul in question is Julia, who is worried what might happen to Lily and despite thinking that she knows what’s caused it, she knows that she won’t be believed. What follows is a quest to find the answers alone that will take her to Venice, as the mysteries and secrets start to unravel, pulling back to reveal a tragedy of devastation.

It’s an interesting concept and I love thrillers that use continental Europe as a backdrop and Playing With Fire allowed us to explore Venice pretty well. The author makes use of two split point of view characters to weave two different stories set in completely different eras. Of course there’s the obvious one of Julia in the United States, but then there’s also Lorenzo, the Italian. It could have been awkward to follow due to how different the two narrations are, and there was a strong potential for the reader to become lost. Whilst they are handled well however for the most part I found the ending to be a tad underwhelming, and wished it could have been executed a bit better, as some questions are left unanswered.

Aside from the ending though which also felt a bit rushed, Playing With Fire remains a mostly solid read. Julia and Lorenzo are effective characters and the backdrop and concept is a fun one. It’s certainly got me interested in reading more of Tess Gerristen’s work and I’d love to check out her other fiction at some point. Fans of the author and those who enjoy good crime mysteries should enjoy Playing With Fire, which makes use of its multiple narrators as well as a slightly historical fiction element to weave a complex standalone novel.



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