If you loved Ronald H. Balson’s thriller, “Once We Were Brothers,” you will certainly enjoy his new novel, “The Girl from Berlin.” Both have the ability to stick with the readers long after the last page is finished. The characters and the stories are painted so clearly that they are memorable. Both books are based on situations during the Holocaust, although the gist of the stories occur in the present.
Readers of Balson’s previous books will immediately recognize, in his new novel, the main characters, Chicago attorney Catherine Lockhart and her investigator-husband Liam Taggart. Neither is Jewish, yet their cases always involve the Jewish world.
His book, “Saving Sophie,” took the couple to Israel. “The Girl from Berlin” has the couple solving its case in the Tuscan hills of Italy. The aunt of a Chicago restaurateur – a friend of Lockhart and Taggart’s – is threatened with eviction from her Italian home by a powerful corporation that seems to yearn for her grape vines.
A treasure hunt for the origin of conflicting land deeds leads to duplicity and death, and eventually to lawyers in Germany who help uncover corporate shenanigans.
The key to helping the aunt, and solving the mystery, lies in a handwritten manuscript from the 1930s that the aunt insists the Chicago couple read to learn the history of the ownership of the villa, as well as the aunt’s connection to the property. That story-within-a-story was written by a girl from Berlin who moved to Italy during the Nazi regime to continue her career as a violinist. Readers learn about the more lenient lives for Jews in Italy, at least in the beginning. The Berlin girl’s story also shows that not all Nazis were the same.
International best-selling author Ronald Balson, a Chicago trial lawyer, will speak about his latest novel, “The Girl From Berlin,” at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15.