Series: Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart #5
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 9, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Ronald H. Balson’s The Girl from Berlin is the fifth installment in his Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart series. I actually didn’t even realize this book was part of a series when I requested it from Netgalley; I just saw that it was a dual timeline WWII historical fiction that focused on the rise of the Nazis and knew that I had to read it. Thankfully, even without four novels of background on main characters Catherine and Liam, I was still easily able to follow along and enjoy the compelling story of The Girl from Berlin.
Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart are a very likable duo. Catherine is a very successful attorney in the United States, and her partner Liam, is a private investigator. I enjoyed the way they worked together, like yin and yang, to get the job done, as well as their easy banter. It made me want to go back and read the prior four books to watch them work together more.
Aside from having a likeable team leading the way, I also found both timelines and their stories equally compelling. The modern day timeline features Catherine and Liam being approached by an old friend who has an elderly aunt in Tuscany who is in desperate need of legal assistance. A powerful corporation is claiming that they actually own the property that the aunt has lived on all her life, and they have served her with an eviction notice. The aunt has a deed to her property, but somehow the corporation also has a deed so the question is whose deed is valid? Catherine and Liam don’t know if they can help but are willing to give it their best shot. Prior to taking off for Tuscany, the aunt sends Catherine a bound handwritten manuscript. She will not discuss the manuscript but indicates that all the answers anyone needs regarding the ownership of the property are in this manuscript, which leads us the second timeline. I found the aunt to be a very sympathetic character as well. I mean, how can you not love a scrappy old lady trying to keep a greedy corporation from kicking her off her land?
The second timeline takes place within the pages of this manuscript as Catherine reads it on her flight. It is a journal of sorts kept by a woman named Ada Baumgarten, a Jewish girl who was born in Berlin at the end of WWI. The manuscript details Ada’s life as a violin prodigy and her growing friendship with a boy named Kurt. It goes on to detail how life was in Germany in the space between WWI and WWII, especially the way Hitler and the Nazis began to slowly consolidate their power in the lead up to WWII. The manuscript reminded me a lot of Anne Frank’s diary as she chronicled how life became more and more restrictive for Jews and how persecution of them just grew and grew the more powerful Hitler got. Ada’s story is a powerful one and an emotional one as we see how she, her family, friends, and neighbors are all impacted by the Nazis and the utter hatred that they ushered in with them as they rose to power.
In addition to finding each of the individual timelines so compelling, I was also captivated waiting to see how the author was going to weave them together into a seamless tale. How does Ada and her journey through WWII fit in to the modern-day story of this elderly Italian aunt who is in danger of losing her home? I’m not going to say anymore about this, but just know that he does and that he does so brilliantly.
Overall I found this story a very satisfying read, but I did find the passages that focused on specific details of Ada’s musical performances less interesting than the rest of the novel and found myself skimming through them at times. I think if I was a musician, I probably would have appreciated those details a bit more, but as someone who is non-musically inclined, just knowing Ada was a gifted violinist and that it made some of the Nazis treat her differently was enough information for me.
Ronald H. Balson’s The Girl from Berlin is a powerful tale that is filled with secrets, lies, and corruption. However, it’s also a tale of hope, determination, and resilience. And even though Catherine and Liam are technically the main characters, the real stars are Ada and the Italian aunt and what connects them. For that reason, you can easily read The Girl from Berlin even if this is your first time reading a book in this series. If historical fiction and dual timelines are your thing, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy of the The Girl from Berlin.
In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author, 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.