In Tess Gerritsen's latest standalone mystery novel, a concert violinist buys an old book of sheet music from an antique store in Italy, and when she gets home and plays it, her three-year-old daughter goes nuts and starts stabbing things. Let's just say it does not end well for the family cat.
Possessed sheet music!!!
You see why I couldn't resist this book, yes?
I played violin from sixth to ninth grades, and I was juuuuust good enough that if I practiced really hard, I could swing last chair in the first violin section. I set the instrument aside after freshman year to make room in my class schedule for more choir classes, because in teenage logic, an activity at which you are mediocre and requires the wearing of a bow tie probably isn't something worth pursuing. Still, I have an affection for string players and stories about them.
Especially if those stories involve Exorcist-style theatrics from a child. Why do I love the “bad seed” archetype so much? Most of the small children I've met in my real life are perfectly pleasant, and none qualify as evil, even if they do lose their shit when denied dessert. Somehow, it's super fascinating to me to think about someone of your own flesh and blood, 50% of your DNA, turning out to be a person you don't recognize and can't fathom. Freaky!
To explain who wrote the apparently evil waltz and how it came to be that way, Gerritsen introduces alternating chapters that flash back to Italy just prior to World War II. I don't want to say too much about those sections in order to avoid spoilers, but also because I wasn't as interested in them. They tell an important story, but they border on sweet at times, and I wasn't in the mood for sweet. I wanted to get back to the stab-happy three-year-old. (Too much honesty?)
Gerritsen is an experienced thriller writer, and it shows in how clean this book is. Not clean as in unobjectionable or G-rated—clean, as in neat and tidy. There are no wasted details or wordy passages. The writing is extremely tight. The resolution clears everything up with no questions left hanging and all right angles square. If you like getting lost in twisty, brambly mysteries, it might frustrate you a bit, but if you're the kind of person who can't deal without closure, you'll be golden.
With regards to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale today, October 27!