Ronald H. Balson's The Girl from Berlin is the winner of the Book Club category for the 2018 National Jewish Book Award. In this new novel, Liam and Catherine come to the aid of an old friend and are drawn into a property dispute in Tuscany that unearths long-buried secrets
An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…
Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bolognathough Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.
What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hopethe ending of which is yet to be written.
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Pienza, Italy, July 2017
The silver Alfa Romeo kicked up a tail of dust as it traveled the road between Montalcino and Montepulciano. The brilliant afternoon sun baked the rolling landscape of the Tuscan hills and forced Lorenzo to squint. It had been hot and dry for the past ten days, and in the struggle for Lorenzo's comfort, the Alfa's air conditioning was inadequate.
He stopped briefly in the little town of Pienza for a cold soda before heading south into the countryside. To be frank, the weather wasn't the only unpleasant aspect to this day's assignment. On the passenger seat, in his attaché case, lay a court order. Lorenzo Lenzini, Avvocato, was headed to the Villa Vincenzo to serve an eviction.
It wasn't that he minded dispossessing a resident, goodness knows he'd done that a thousand times. And it wasn't that she was elderly and in failing health, for Lorenzo had no feelings for her one way or another. It was the universal support that this perverse woman had somehow managed to rally from the local populace that unsettled him. His obligations to his client had backed him into a corner. Now he was forced to play the role of a heartless villain, and while it didn't bother him personally, he felt sure it would affect him professionally in the province of Siena.
The old stone villa was perched on a pleasant hill above groves of olive trees and rows of grapevines heavily laden with the season's crop. Well-tended flower gardens lined the perimeter of the structure. The villa was typical of Tuscan architecture — oatmeal-colored stone exterior, seasoned oak beams beneath a roof of overlapping terracotta half-pipes, flower boxes under the windows — all in the Etruscan fashion. To Lorenzo's way of thinking, nothing exceptional. Seen one, you've seen them all.
The lawyer parked his car, grabbed his attaché case, placed his Borselino panama hat squarely on his head, straightened the lapels of his cream-colored suit, puffed his chest out and strode purposefully up the stairs of the veranda and directly to the villa's front door, there to confront the intransigent Signora Vincenzo. Before knocking, he paused to take in the surrounding landscape, the green and cappuccino pastels of the richest vineyards in the world. In all directions, as far as he could see, the land was owned by his client, VinCo S.p.A., one of Italy's largest wine producers. In all directions, that is, except for the land he was standing on.
Villa Vincenzo was a rogue island in the sea of VinCo's vineyards. A trespasser. Lorenzo, on behalf of his client, had tried for months to persuade Signora Vincenzo to sell. It was an inconvenience for his client to farm around this obtrusive appendage. Villa Vincenzo was an aberration in the midst of VinCo's perfectly contiguous rows of Sangiovese, merlot and cabernet. It was a break in symmetry. It had to go.
Lorenzo had conveyed VinCo's offers to Signora Vincenzo on a dozen occasions, and they were more than fair — a cost-free relocation to a lovely rental home in the village and a cash bonus. She was foolish to turn them down. In truth, VinCo didn't have to offer a damn thing. VinCo owned the land.
It seemed to Lorenzo that Signora Vincenzo had some unnatural and unreasonable attachment to the property. How could this commonplace parcel of property have such a strong hold on such a sick old lady? She wouldn't take the offer, so now she'd forced his hand. The legal steps had all been taken, the court order had been issued, and the obstinate Signora Vincenzo would have sixty days to vacate. Sorry, but that's the way it goes.
Lorenzo gritted his teeth and knocked on the door. A young woman, whom Lorenzo knew to be Signora Vincenzo's equally obstinate nurse, answered. "What is it this time, Mr. Lenzini?"
"Please summon Signora Vincenzo to the door. I have a document to hand to her."
"I'll do no such thing. She has told you and your soulless client that she will never sell. This is her land. She has lived here for years. Now be gone."
Lorenzo rattled the eviction order in the face of the young woman. "Not so fast, Signorina," he barked, sternly and loudly. "This is a court order. Now it is you who will be gone. Signora Vincenzo must surrender possession within sixty days, or I will have the pleasure of watching the polizia toss the two of you out."
From inside the house, a raspy voice cried out, "Va via! Va via!" Gabriella Vincenzo, on unsteady legs, made her way to the front door. Age had bowed her back as though her head had become too heavy. Despite the pains she suffered in every joint, she waved her cane as menacingly as she could. "Get out. Get out! Get off my land!"
Lorenzo took a step back. With a shaking hand, he held the eviction order front and center. "You have sixty days, Signora Vincenzo. Sixty days and no more." Then he threw the order on the floor and beat a hasty retreat to his car. As he left, the young nurse consoled her patrona, who wept on her shoulder.CHAPTER 2
Chicago, July 2017
"Tell me again why we're having dinner at Café Sorrento tonight," Catherine said.
Liam parked alongside the curb and handed his keys to the valet. "Because we love the food."
Catherine raised a single eyebrow. "We do. But an urgent afternoon phone call asking me to get a babysitter at the last minute on a Thursday night means something more than 'I'm dying for a plate of Tony's veal parmesan.' Fess up. What's going on?" Liam smiled at his perceptive wife. "Tony called me this afternoon. He sounded troubled. He asked if we could come over and be his guests for dinner tonight. Pleaded would be more like it."
"Troubled? That's all he said?"
"Well, he didn't say troubled. That's how he sounded. What he said was, 'I have a small legal matter to discuss.'"
Catherine groaned. "Liam, you should have told him to make an appointment at the office, where it's quiet, confidential and uninterrupted. This packed restaurant is no place to conduct a client interview."
"He said it was a small matter. What if it's just a parking ticket or some simple licensing issue? Maybe the city's hassling him. You know, he practically lives in this restaurant. He's here fifteen hours a day. It's hard for him to come to your office."
Café Sorrento was indeed packed. There was a line at the hostess stand and several patrons were standing at the bar and in the entryway waiting to be seated. No sooner had Catherine and Liam squeezed their way through the door, then the stocky restauranteur in his three-piece suit hurried over to greet them. He warmly kissed Catherine on each cheek and vigorously shook Liam's hand.
"Buonasera, buonasera, miei cari amici," Tony Vincenzo said. "Grazie per la venuta. Thank you so much for coming." He opened his palm and gestured toward a booth in the corner.
"Prego," he said, walking briskly through his restaurant. A small bouquet and an open bottle of wine were already on the table. A server promptly appeared with menus, but Tony waved her away. "No menus tonight. These are my dear friends and I have planned a very special dinner."
Midway through the meal, Catherine leaned over and quietly said, "Liam, this dinner is over the top. We've had bruschetta, minestrone, gnocchi with veal ragout and Lord knows what he's bringing for the main course. It makes me feel that this 'small legal matter' might not be so small after all. If there's any equivalency, we're likely headed for complex litigation."
It was almost ten o'clock, after servings of grilled branzino, pecan gelato and a tray of cookies with coffee, and after the restaurant had nearly emptied, when Tony reappeared at the table carrying a briefcase. He slid into the booth and said, "Did you get enough to eat?"
"I can't move," Liam said.
"It was wonderful," Catherine said.
Tony opened his case, took out a stack of papers and laid them on the table. He looked at Catherine. "Did Liam tell you that I have a very serious legal matter?"
She gave Liam a quick evil eye and then nodded. "Yes, he did, but he used a different adjective."
Tony leaned back in the booth and spoke expressively, using his hands and arms for emphasis. "I have an aunt Gabi back in Italy. Such a sweet lady. A widow. Heart of gold. But, sorry to say, not too healthy these days. Everyone loves her. You talk to anybody, they love her."
Liam spread his hands. "And?"
Tony leaned forward. "So, some rotten bastard is trying to throw her out of her house. Can you imagine that? A seventy-eight-year-old woman, never hurt a single person, and she's not well. She can hardly walk." Tony dabbed at his eyes. "And now this stronzo, this asshole, wants to throw her out of the house that she's lived in for as long as I can remember. He's given her sixty days."
"How does this man claim rights to her property?" Catherine said.
"It's not just this man. If it was just him, I'd take care of it. Believe me, I wouldn't need a lawyer and a private detective. No, he's an attorney and he represents a big company, VinCo. Big-deal wine producer. They say VinCo holds the deed to her property."
"Did Aunt Gabi sign a deed? Did she transfer her rights?"
"Never. My aunt Gabi may be physically disabled, but mentally she's sharp as a tack. She tells me she has good title to her land. If she says it, it's so."
Tony had the dishes cleared and then rolled out a survey. "Here's her land. She calls it Villa Vincenzo. Such a sweetheart." In the middle of the survey he drew a circle with his finger. "This part, these seventy acres, are hers. She has olive trees, vineyards and vegetables. The best vegetables. Zucchini like you've never seen. I wish I could get 'em in Chicago." Then Tony circled his finger around the rest of the survey. "All the rest of this land surrounding Aunt Gabi's little piece, it all belongs to VinCo. That's why they hate her. She's a pimple on their ass. They can't stand that they don't own her little piece. They've been pestering her for months to buy her out. But she's been firm, God bless her. And now they have some slimy lawyer trying to figure out a way to steal it from her."
"Has she hired a lawyer?"
Tony nodded. "Two of them. One in her little town of Pienza and one from Siena. Cost me plenty."
"Can't they help her?"
Tony shook his head. "They say that VinCo has better title than Aunt Gabi."
"How can that be?" Liam said.
Tony shrugged. He gestured to the stack of documents. "They sent me these papers."
Catherine thumbed through the documents. "They're all in Italian. What do they say?"
"A lot of words that don't mean much to me. I can't make any sense out of this. But you, Catherine, you're the best lawyer in Chicago. Maybe the whole country."
Catherine smiled. "I appreciate your confidence, but I don't practice in Italy. I'm not familiar with Italian law, I'm not licensed to practice there and I don't even speak the language. You need an Italian lawyer."
"I told you, I've hired two of them. They both say the same thing — VinCo is the legal title holder and Aunt Gabi has to move. You want my opinion? VinCo paid them off."
"I can't read these papers, Tony."
"I'll get them translated for you. Would you go over there and straighten this out? You could talk to these lawyers. Italian, English, it doesn't matter. You all speak legalese. Would you go help my aunt? You'd love her."
Catherine sighed. "Have the documents translated and delivered to my office. I'll review them and try to give you my opinion. No promises."
Tony leaned over, cupped Catherine's face and kissed her. "Grazie, grazie. And then you'll go over there and stop them from evicting Aunt Gabi?" "I didn't say that. First things first, Tony. Let me read through the papers, try to figure out what's going on and then we'll talk."
"Fantastico." He turned to his bartender. "Franco, three glasses of limoncello."
* * *
Catherine Lockhart's law office was situated in a storefront building on Clark Street in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Catherine had been a solo practitioner in that location for five years, enjoying a comfortable neighborhood practice, in contrast to the pressured life she had previously endured as an associate lawyer with the downtown firm of Jenkins and Fairchild. It was during the case of Solomon v. Rosenzweig that Walter Jenkins had given her an ultimatum — drop Ben Solomon as a client or leave the firm. She chose the latter and has never looked back.
Tony Vincenzo entered her office early Tuesday morning and was greeted by Catherine's receptionist. She walked him back to the conference room where Catherine and Liam were waiting.
"I hope you have good news for me," Tony said.
Catherine shook her head. "The records are not as complete as I would like, but from what I can see, it looks like the Italian lawyers were right. VinCo purchased the Villa Vincenzo property, all seventy acres of it, from a decedent's estate in 2015. The deed was accepted by the province of Siena and recorded."
"What estate? My aunt is alive. How could there be a decedent's estate? Whose estate?"
"The deed came from the administrator of the estate of Gerda Fruman, a German citizen. She was the sole owner of Quercia Company, the corporation that owned the land. I have a copy of the administrator's deed. It was filed online."
"This has got to be a mistake. I never heard of Gerda Fruman. Or Quercia. I've been to Pienza many times, I've stayed at my aunt's villa for weeks at a time, and take my word for it, there's never been any Gerda Fruman. You gotta clear this up for me."
Catherine reached into the stack of papers and withdrew a court order. "This order, the one Attorney Lenzini dropped at Gabi's house, grants possession to VinCo on September 10. It was issued by a judge after a hearing. The order recites that neither your aunt nor her lawyer came to court. They didn't show up."
"Okay, that's the reason then. She probably fired the last lawyer. He told her she didn't have a good case. My aunt can be stubborn."
Catherine shook her head. "The judge ruled that your aunt's title to the land was not valid. It was outside the chain."
"The chain? What chain? What does that mean?" "The chain of title, Tony. How the property passes from one owner to another. When you look at the history of the property in the official records, it shows each time it was deeded from one person to another. The judge ruled that your aunt got a deed from someone who didn't own the property."
"When was this? Who did she buy the property from who supposedly didn't own it?" "In 1995, Carlo Vanucci deeded the property to Gabriella Vincenzo and it was recorded."
"Well, okay then, it was recorded before 2015 when VinCo got a deed."
Catherine shrugged. "I know, but the court ruled that Vanucci didn't own the property. If Italy is like the U.S., the registrar's office will accept anything you give them to record, as long as it correctly identifies the land. It's not the registrar's job to determine if a deed is valid — he just records it as a document. If someone claims it's invalid, it is up to a court to decide. From what I see here, a judge examined the chain of title and came to the conclusion that Gabriella's deed was not valid and that the deed from Fruman's estate to VinCo was valid."
Tony stood. He paced the room. "Something's wrong. This is a fraud. My aunt has lived there for years. I've been going there for fifty years, since I was a boy. There's no such person as Gerda Fruman. I never heard of no company named Quercia whatever. Can't you see? VinCo's paying off everyone. They made up this Fruman estate. Holy Mother of God, this is going to kill my aunt Gabi. She can't be evicted from her home. You gotta help me. You gotta go there and stop this."
"I don't know what we can do in Italy," Liam said. "You heard her, Catherine's not an Italian lawyer. If you're going to attack this order, you need to do it through a lawyer who practices in the province of Siena."
"I've had two of them. They both sided with VinCo."
"Maybe they're right, Tony. Maybe Aunt Gabi's title is defective."
"I don't buy it. Liam, I know you for years and you can trust me when I tell you this — it stinks like a dead fish. Please, go there and see if there's something you can do for my aunt. Catherine may not be licensed in Italy, but she has a sharp mind. She can figure things out. And you, you can find out who the hell this Quercia is. I'll pay all the costs, I'll pay Catherine's attorney's fees and you two can stay at the villa. Worst comes to worst, you got a couple weeks in Tuscany. Is that so bad?" "It's very tempting," Catherine said, "but I'm pretty sure you'd be wasting your money."
"It's my money. So let me waste it a little and try to help my aunt."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Girl from Berlin"
Copyright © 2018 Ronald H. Balson.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was excellent.
What a great story with richly defined characters. You will enjoy this book and find it difficult to put down.
As always this author is riveting, a very compelling read The story though fiction brings to life many historical facts people do not know about and sadly when the last survivors pass it is important that what happened is not forgotten
3.5 Stars I struggled a bit with the alternating story lines at the beginning of the story as it was hard to get invested in either story line. However, once we got to the meat of both stories, I became immersed in them. Present day Liam Taggart and Cathrine Lockhart are asked to go to Italy to help solve a legal dispute over who owns the vineyards currently occupied by Gabriella: her or VinCo. While there, Gabriella gives Catherine a memoir of a girl from WWII. Ada, whose memoir we (and Catherine) read, is a German Jew and a gifted violinist. Unfortunately, with Hitler’s rise to power it becomes increasingly hard for her to play publicly and she eventually moves to Italy to pursue her dream. But with WWII raging on and Mussolini joining ranks with Hitler she isn’t safe there either. Her story is heartbreaking and upsetting. Back in present day, Catherine works hard with an Italian lawyer to try and prove Gabriella the rightful owner of the land. You know the two stories have to be connected, but it takes some time to work and out and even longer to see how the memoir can help the case. I think Balson does a great job at slowly unraveling both stories and then bringing them together. This is book five in the Taggart and Lockhart series, but it can be read as a stand-alone. But, as I’ve read other books in this series, I would recommend reading them all. I received an advanced copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
I am not sure how I have not heard of this author or series before, I absolutely loved this book. I could not stop listening to it. I have become a lover of Historical Fiction, especially those using dual timelines and this book fit the bill perfectly. For those of you not familiar with this series, Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart are a lawyer and private detective. The live in Chicago and have a young son. They are contacted by a friend, restaurateur, Tony, who wants them to go to Italy to help his Aunt Gabby. It seems Gabriella is being forced off her land by a greedy corporation. They have managed to get a court to confirm ownership by the VinCo Company and she has 60 days to leave the property. She is adamant she owns the property and it is up to Catherine and Liam to find the paperwork to prove that Gabriella Vincenzo owns the property. The only clues they have is a memoir or diary written by Ada Baumgarten, a talented violinist that becomes the first female to play in a national orchestra. This is the story in the past, the horrible, terrifying past of being a German Jew during the rise of Hitler. I listened to this book and the narrator was wonderful. Fred Berman used cadence, accent and tone to become the various characters in the story and I was captivated by this tale. The story was not lyrical, but it was well told, gritty, it gripped me. The unfairness, the corrupt corporation and lawyers trying to bully this old woman and intimidate her friends and lawyers had me wanting to know what is going to happen. I did figure out what the connection between the past and present was and how VinCo fit in, but trying to prove it and learning the rest of Ada's story kept me hooked. This book is a very absorbing dual-timeline that will immediately capture your interest with detailed descriptions of the characters and events. In the 1930s/1940s timeline, Balson does a great job showing how naive the Jews were until it was too late. Everytime Ada or her father said they would leave tomorrow, or at the end of the month, I wanted to cry, I knew what was going to happen. I had not read any stories about the people in Italy and what they were going through as allies of Hitler. I do not want to share anymore of the plot or story with you, but suffice it to say, it is sad and terrible. The characters in this story were so real to me. I hated the lawyers in Italy that were willing to bend the law for their clients, an extremely wealthy corporation. I was rooting for Catherine and the young female lawyer Liam finds willing to work with them and fight the greedy corporation. Those in the past that we were meant to like and cheer for, had my pity and admiration and those who were the evil characters earned my disdain. I definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, dual-timelines, WWII, Holocaust stories, and mysteries. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request, although I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the story. The rating, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
Excellent novel. Hard to put down. Made me keep turning the pages
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings What a fantastic book! With two storylines that connect from the beginning this story seemed like such a unique take on a topic that is the focus of a lot of books - World War II. The "present day" storyline is centered around an older woman in Italy who is being forced off her property by a corporation. She swears that the land is hers and she is connected with Catherine and Liam Taggert who come to the rescue to get to the bottom of the mystery. The historical storyline starts in 1918 and begins in Berlin with a young girl who is learning the violin from her accomplished father and has big dreams of joining a symphony.
I have read books #3 and #4 in this series, and both #3 and #5, The Girl from Berlin, deal with the time of World War Two, although from different perspectives. The author does a good job of telling the story of the characters from the past. I mentioned in a review for Karolina's Twins that the relationship between Liam and Catherine, the husband-wife couple, was stiff. It got better in this book, happy to say. Although it is a World War Two novel, little is mentioned of Holocaust. It presents the lives of the Jewish people in Germany, the fine side of their world, with culture and music. I knew little about this, and it was fun to see this aspect presented. I can't say that there were any characters I didn't like. The novel kept me engaged to the very end, I liked how the story within a story was presented, and thankfully it didn't feel like there was any hardly possible starting point. A good read! I received a free ebook copy of the book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
Liam and Catherine have been asked to travel to Italy to help a good friend’s aunt. She is about to lose her home through mysterious circumstances. Liam and Catherine have to unravel years of strange paperwork and unknown adversaries dating back to WWII. I read a lot of WWII books. It is one of my favorite time periods. This one is unique and I learned a good bit. I knew about Jews deeding their property to neighbors and friends but, I really had no idea about all the difficulties surrounding returning the property to the rightful owner. I don’t think I have ever read a book which dealt with this dilemma in such historical detail. This is really a stand alone book. I did not realize it was part of a series till I began writing this review. I definitely need to see what Liam and Catherine have been up to before! The mystery surrounding Ada is captivating. The way the author flashes back really keeps the reader glued to this tale. This is such a history rich and enlightening novel. Don’t miss this one!
The Girl from Berlin by Ronald H Balson is the fourth in a series featuring Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart husband and wife legal/private investigative team who have been hired by the owner of their favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago to investigate a property matter involving his aunt and her villa/vineyard in Italy. This book was a complete surprise to me since I was unaware of this series, which is a shame. This book centered on an autobiography written while its author was interned in a concentration camp during World War II. She had smuggled it out and as Liam and Catherine read it, both the horror of the Holocaust and the reality of Gabrielle's ownership became abundantly clear. Ada Baumgarten has been a violin virtuoso in Berlin when it became clear that it was not a healthy place for Jews to live. She was a second-generation concert violinist and her father's friend and Berlin Symphony conductor managed to obtain for her a temporary job in Bologna, Italy, where things were safer for Jews. There she made a name for herself and lived happily for many years. After several years there her father managed to sell their home in Berlin and smuggle the cash to Bologna in his violin case, which was totally illegal at the time and eventually the Gestapo figured it out and arrested him eventually leading to his death in the concentration camp. Ada and her mother used the money to buy a villa and small vineyard in the country where her mother becomes a farmer. Twists and turns abound. As with any Holocaust novel, there is plenty of heartbreak, as well. I am a lover of mysteries, cozies and more hard-core. The Girl from Berlin was a wonderful read, from start to finish. Mostly cerebral but with a fair dose of violence. It is a motivator to go back and read the other books in the series. Balson has a way with words, and with characters. Catherine and Liam are both low key but powerful characters. The peripheral characters had depth and held my interest. I loved the way to autobiography took us into the past and yet was so pertinent to the present. The plot was powerful and intricate. Well worth the time. I highly recommend this book. You will not be sorry if you give it a try. I was given a free ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. #netgalley #thegirllfromberlin
Ronald H. Balson always brings us excellent and factual historical novels rooted in the European theatre of the Second World War. The Girl from Berlin is no exception. Completely stand along, this novel is the fifth of a series featuring Chicago lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart as they work together to find justice for their clients. As always, this is a story of family and redemption. This novel is peopled with warm, loveable characters and extremely bad bad guys. The pace and depth of the story is extraordinary. I couldn't put it down. The Girl from Berlin will go on my favorites shelf, alongside Saving Sophie, Karolina's Twins, and Once We Were Brothers. I received a free ARC of this novel from Goodreads Giveaway and Ronald H. Balson in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
A good historical fiction. A mystery drama,intrigue during and after WWII . A good insight into the stories and life of those that lived during that time. Did learn somethings that I didn't know. Voluntarily reviewed
It is rare, I think, to find a story that tells it all, the good and the bad, eloquently. Also rare is the ability to alternate chapters and have them fit naturally, as hand-in-glove. The Girl from Berlin accomplishes both and does so beautifully. We are swept into the lives of the residents of Berlin, Bologna, Rome, and the Tuscan countryside before and during the nazification of those and other areas. The culture, the historical sites, the patterns and habits of daily life are described with details that provide us with specific mental and emotional pictures. Taking us into the beautiful, vibrant lives of the settings of the story helps us to feel even more poignantly their demise under Nazi rule. An indispensable component of the story itself and the cultural lives of the cities is the music. Ada is a prodigy, the daughter of Jacob Baumgarten, a renowned violin virtuoso. Both musicians are privileged to travel, hence the various locations and the vivid descriptions of life in each. There are several stories within the title, each one well constructed and compelling on its own. The characters are convincing, contributing purpose and interest. The Girl from Berlin is an excellent story, one that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the privilege.
This is the second book of this series written by Ronald Balson that I have read....and while they are in a series, each book was a great stand alone read. (I have every intention of reading the others!). The book follows the husband and wife team of Liam and Catherine, the PI and the lawyer. They have been asked to travel to Italy to help a woman named Gibriella Vincenzo (Aunt Gabi) save her vineyard from a company who wants to take over her land and is questioning her legal ownership of the land. To find the truth, the couple must read a memoir that Aunt Gabi gives to them to read, telling them they will find the truth in the story. The story takes the readers back to WWII and follows the life of a young Jewish woman and her family. Ada Baumgarten is a very talented violinist and she and her father both play important parts in the music of Berlin. Her story takes us through the highs and the lows of the chaos of the times. The book takes the readers back and forth through the timelines of WWII and their current dilemma and drama in fighting to maintain the rights of the vineyard while trying to find the secret the memoir is holding. Sometimes books that flash back and forth in timelines can easily lose the reader’s interest, but this did not. One timeline was just as interesting to follow as the other. The way it leads to a surprising result kept me wanting to read it at every opportunity I found! I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to others. I received an ARC copy of this book through the publisher and NetGalley for an honest review, which this is.
We travel from present-day Italy and back to the 1930’s during Hitler’s regime in Germany. In Nazi Germany, we are introduced to Ada as she masterfully plays her violin solos. In Italy we come across a land dispute that may or may not have Ada Baumgaurten, famous violinist in the Berlin Philharmonic, involved. The land dispute has Liam and Catherine flying to Italy to the beautiful villa of Senora Vincenzo, aunt of a close friend in Chicago. Catherine has the task of trying to dispute the fact that Senora does own the land and the home she is living in contrary to the Italian attorneys who say she is not the owner. The claim the Italian attorneys had seemed pretty suspicious. We also gets a glimpse into beautiful Tuscany - its food, its people, and its landscapes. I enjoyed the back and forth from the 1930’s to 2017. The connection between the two time periods set in Germany at the beginning of WWII then moving to present-day Italy was a manuscript that Ada had written about her life and the life of a famous violinist. Senora Ada Vincenzo insisted that Catherine read the manuscript for the background because she just couldn’t bring herself to tell the details. THE GIRL FROM BERLIN is a very absorbing dual-timeline that will immediately capture your interest with detailed descriptions of the characters and events. Mr. Balson has written another beautiful, well researched book that opens up our eyes to the life the European people were living at that time to today’s lifestyle in Italy. The present-day story line has secrets being revealed about Ada’s and Senora Vincenzo’s claim on the land. Historical fiction fans, opera fans, and fans of Mr. Balson’s books definitely will not be disappointed in his newest beauty. THE GIRL FROM BERLIN is outstanding, unforgettable, and well written. Magnificent, marvelous, heart wrenching, and should be given high praise are perfect descriptions of THE GIRL FROM BERLIN. 5/5 This book was given to me as an ARC. All opinions are my own.
Lindas Book Obsession Review of “The Girl From Berlin” by Ronald H. Balson St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 2, 2018 Ronald H. Balson, Author or “The Girl From Berlin”, has written an intense, edgy, captivating, intriguing, suspenseful, page turning and riveting novel. This is the fifth Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart novel, but can be read as a stand only. The Genres for this novel are Fiction, Suspense , Mystery with some Historical History Background. The author describes some of his colorful characters as complex and complicated. Catherine and Liam are asked to do a favor for a friend, and check out his Aunt’s claim of property disputes in Italy. The Aunt will lose her home and land if something isn’t done. There is a legal question of deeds, contracts and dates of land ownership. When there is in adequate information, loss books of information , attempted arson and a dead body, this is becoming a dangerous quest. Upon further investigation, Catherine and Liam realize this goes back to Germany and a young girl by the name of Ada Baumgarten , an accomplished first chair violinist in Berlin. There is a journal in their possession that shows that Ada was Jewish, and the timing is around Hitler’s uprising, and World War Two. How does this affect the aunt’s property in Italy? Who are the big corporations fighting to evict her, and why? How does this become an international matter? I loved everything about the story, and especially was touched by Ada’s story. I highly recommend this novel to readers that enjoy a suspenseful mystery. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
4.5 stars In Italy, a lawyer representing a powerful company, handed Gabi, an eviction notice. He told her that the deed that she held to the land was not valid. The elderly woman was given only sixty days to evacuate. Out of desperation, Gabi’s nephew, pleaded with his American friends, Catherine and Liam, a lawyer and private investigator team, to help. The two Americans were not sure that they would be of any real assistance to Gabi until they read Ada Baumgarten’s memoir. Ada Baumgarten wrote about her life, as a Jew, living in Germany and Italy, under Hitler’s rule. As her memoir unfolded, Ada’s world, came alive for Catherine and Liam. Because Ada was a professional violinist, she was given more liberties than the average Jewish girl. But, that didn’t stop the Nazis from trying to remove everything that she loved from her. Unfortunately, Ada had embarrassed an SS soldier, and that Nazi, was not about to let the incident go until he had his revenge. The book alternates between the 1930s and 2017. It tells the poignant story about Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, the atrocities the Nazis carried out in his name, and the influence Hitler had in Europe. The Girl from Berlin is a well-written and captivating novel. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
Even this is not the first book in the series, it didn't felt like I was missing something for complete reading experience. I love to read this kind of books and it kept my attention until I finished it. The story gives us insight of the life during 1930's and present time. Both life stories Ada's and Gabi's entwine seamlessly and it is such a beautifully and heartbreaking when we discover the connection between them. Both storyline and characters are well built and I liked them.