Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: The Girl from Berlin

Summary: In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author Ronald. H. Balson, 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 Bologna—though 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 hope—the ending of which is yet to be written. -- St. Martin's Press

I always look forward to the next installment in the Liam Taggert and Catherine Lockhart series by Ronald M. Balson. I am pretty sure that I've read all of them except one... which I certainly need to remedy! The latest in the series is titled THE GIRL FROM BERLIN, and I think fans of this series (or even readers who enjoy books that take place during World War II) will appreciate this novel.

In THE GIRL FROM BERLIN, Liam and Catherine find themselves heading to Italy to help one of the friends. His aunt Gabi is being thrown out of her villa and off her land in Tuscany by a corporation that claims they own the deeds. Liam and Catherine don't have a lot to go on. Catherine doesn't isn't even allowed to practice law or Italy, nor is she familiar with the property laws; however, they do have an old manuscript written in Germany which might provide some clues.

As is the case with this series, there is always a present day story and flashbacks to the past. In the case of this novel, Ada Baumgarten's manuscript provided the background for the mystery. Ada was a teenager (and child violin prodigy) at the onset of Hitler's rise to power in Germany. She was the daughter of a famous musician with the Berlin Philharmonic, and her family was afforded some protection because of their status even though they were Jewish. Despite what was going on in Berlin during this time period, Ada and her family led a pretty comfortable life... until they didn't.

Ada developed a friendship (and eventually a romance) with Kurt, a young boy who was also a member of the junior orchestra. Unfortunately, Kurt left the orchestra to join the German war efforts; and the two teens were forced to keep their relationship a secret. As tensions rose in Germany, Ada and her mother decided that it was finally time for them to leave the country. Fortunately, Ada's skills as a musician provided them with the opportunity to go to Bologna, Italy.

Ada's manuscript unravels her amazing life story (including what happens to her family and her relationship with Kurt!) while also providing some clues about the ownership of the land. Of course, the husband and wife team of Liam and Catherine do their own investigating to make sense of Ada's story and how it pertains to Gabi and her land.

I really enjoyed THE GIRL FROM BERLIN and I suspect I won't be alone in my praise of this novel. While I love Liam and Catherine, I will admit that my favorite parts of this book were the chapters associated with Ada's diary. I am always drawn to a good story about Nazi Germany and how individuals were able to persevere; however, Ada's story was especially intriguing. Ada and her family had a unique situation given their status in Berlin (and Hitler's appreciation of the arts!), and it was very interesting to me to see how they used their friendships and social contacts to try to save themselves from the Nazis.

Another aspect of this novel that I enjoyed was Ada's relationship with Kurt. It wasn't especially unique to have a young Jewish girl and a German boy fall in love, but I still liked it quite a bit. Ada was an incredibly strong and brave young woman, and I appreciated how she loved Kurt but she also had doubts about his contribution to the war effort.

As is the case with any novel about Nazi Germany, this novel had some gut-wrenching parts. However, I will say that the overall "feeling" of this novel was one of strength and hope. The ending almost made me cry, first out of sadness and then out of happiness; and I loved the surprise twist at the end.

THE GIRL FROM BERLIN definitely had a mystery aspect to it concerning Gabi's house and the corporation that claimed they owned her land. I will say that the mystery of Ada's life (and what happened to her and how she was linked to Gabi) was much more intriguing to me than the mystery surrounding the deeds. Having said that, there were a few surprises about the corporation and the history of the deeds that I did appreciate.

I highly recommend THE GIRL FROM BERLIN... and really all of Mr. Balson's novels.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a Netgalley copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

How have I missed this series? It sounds like one I'd love!