The Girl from Berlin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

The Girl from Berlin by Ron Balson

Brief Summary: Catherine Lockhardt and Liam Taggart agree to help the aunt of their friend Tony. Aunt Gabby is about to lose her Italian villa to a powerful corporation. She gives them the diary of Ada Baumgartner, a Jewish girl growing up in pre-WWII Berlin. Told in alternating storylines, the past and present collide. Ron Balson is one of my favorite authors. I have read the previous three books in this series, though this could certainly be read as a stand alone novel.   

Highlights: I loved learning about the role of the orchestra in pre-WWII Berlin. It was also really interesting to learn about the climate in Berlin leading up to the war through both the experiences of Ada, who was of course Jewish and Kurt, who joined the ranks of Hitler’s youth groups. I love seeing Catherine and Liam work together; they are a great team. I also found the angles of international property law fascinating; Balson’s legal background shines through. 

Explanation of Rating: 4/5; This book was certainly engrossing and thought provoking; but it’s not Once We Were Brothers or Karolina’s Twins.

Thank you to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review
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This is a very solid book that I'm glad I got the chance to read. I've never read any of Ronald H. Balson's books before but this one will definitely lead me to read more.
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Ronald Balson being one of my all-time favourite authors, I was so excited to hear about this book! The Girl From Berlin is Balson’s fourth book in the “Catherine and Liam Saga” as I like to call it. Taking place in pre-war Europe (mainly Germany, but also Italy), Balson explores the persecution of the Jewish people prior to the start of WWII and throughout the war years. Told in alternating time periods (present and past), Balson incorporates the legal battle over a vineyard property in Italy to his historical story of the Jewish people during the second world war.

Once We Were Brothers, Balson’s first book, had some striking similarities to The Girl From Berlin. I really enjoyed the characters and “watching” their story unfold. Balson is a master at historical legal battles and I find that he explains the “legal stuff” really well so that anyone can understand. While I did find there were some rushed parts to this story, and some too drawn out parts of this story, I really enjoyed this “new” view of the Second World War, focusing on the pre-war years in Germany vs the actual war years.

Balson does a great job of tying the two stories together, although I would have loved if it happened maybe 20 pages sooner to give the book a little more of a conclusion. While Once We Were Brothers will forever be my favourite Ronald Balson book, and one of my favourite books of all time, this book comes in a close second. Fans of historical fiction, historical legal thrillers and Ronald Balson himself should definitely read this book!
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I enjoyed every minute of this book! I loved how the story blended with the present and the past in order to know the back story and what we're reading. I hope to see more by this author!
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This was such a good book! This is book 5 in the Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart series and my first one to read. This book is easily a stand alone. I didn't feel like I was missing anything by not reading the first four books. This book went back and forth between 2017 and the life of Ada Baumgarten and her family during World War II as Jews in Berlin. I found both storylines fascinating. I've read before in a memoir that the legal system in Italy is a little hard to navigate with some lawyers not caring and some who can be paid off. I was frustrated with Ada and her father where were both professional violinists. They kept saying they would leave Berlin and Germany after the season was done or with one more performance left. They also kept thinking Hitler wasn't going to last, people wouldn't believe him, people wouldn't get behind him. Of course behind on this side of the Holocaust it's easy to yell RUN every time I read they were going to wait a few months or a few days. Or Ada saying she could easily go back into Berlin after moving to Italy. Balson does a great time showing how naive the Jews were until it was too late. He does a great job in showing just how bad conditions became and how slowly people became such racist people. Best friends shunning their Jewish friends and neighbors. There were a lot of parallels from how Hitler and the Nazis grew and changed the way people thought, the way hate grew to some of what is happening here. Balson showed how easy people got complacent and things changed before people even knew what was going on. I would highly recommend this book. It was so well written, and the characters were so well rounded that I cared for the many of them and didn't like some of them.
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The fifth book in the Catherine and Liam series, this brilliantly written novel is a story within a story, both historical fiction and mystery. 


Catherine Lockhart, a lawyer, and her husband, Liam Taggert, a private investigator, are tasked with saving their friend's elderly aunt, Gabriella Vincenzo, from eviction of her Italian villa and vineyard property by a giant corporation with countless corrupt lawyers. In their effort to help Signora Vincenzo, Catherine and Liam soon discover that nothing is as it seems and just how difficult to navigate the Italian legal system can be. 

Signora Vincenzo hands Catherine and Liam the memoir of a young girl, written during the Nazi regime, in the hopes that it will solidify her claim to the property. Together with Catherine and Liam, we discover the moving and heartbreaking story of Ada, a young Jewish violin prodigy, who tries to become the first woman to hold a permanent position with an orchestra, all the while trying to survive as a Jew in 1930s Nazi Germany. Ada’s father, himself a gifted musician and the first chair violinist of the Berlin philharmonic Orchestra, and Ada both remain committed musicians despite the deepening crisis for Jews in Nazi Germany. Often, their commitment highlights that at the time, no one thought possible the atrocities that were to come, the systematic incarceration and murder of millions of people across most of Europe. The two plot lines alternate between present day Italy and 1930s Germany and Italy. 



Balson’s strong characters grippingly tell the beautiful and tragic story. I was hooked instantly and the plot is very interesting legally, as well as historically. It made me think about the restitution of art stolen by the Nazis that is still a problem today. The descriptions of the gorgeous Italian landscape and delicious Italian food made me want to go straight back to Italy and to immediately eat lots of delicious Italian food.

This was the first Balson book for me and I will definitely read more of the series. Highly recommended. 



I would like to thank NetGalley, Ronald H. Balson and St. Martin's Press for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

I also want to mention that the eBook formatting was great, which often isn't the case with ARCs.
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Catherine Lockhart, one of Chicago's top lawyers, and her husband, Liam, travel to a little town of Pienza, Italy. Tony, the owner of their favorite restaurant, Cafe Sorrento, has an aunt there in desperate need of Catherine's help. Tony's Aunt Gabi is being forced out of her beloved home, and the 70 acres of land it sits on, by a billion dollar corporation named VinCo. VinCo claims that Gabi's deed is invalid, and that they have the rights to the land. She has 60 days to leave. Gabi's lawyers in Italy have been no help and have given up on her case. Catherine does not know a lot about Italian law and has no license to practice in the country, but agrees to help and steps up to the challenge.

As Catherine and Liam are leaving for Italy, Tony shows up with a package he is to hand directly to Catherine from Gabi. It is a book titled "My Meditation: A Work For Solo Violin" and Aunt Gabi wants her to read it. Confused as to what the book has to do with the case, Catherine begins to read.

It is a memoir, written by a woman named Ava Baumgartin, a Jewish violin prodigy, starting in prewar Berlin in 1918, when she is 11 years old. What does a famous Jewish musician from Germany have to do with Gabi's property? According to Gabi, The information Catherine needs, is all in the book somewhere. Catherine just has to discover it.

I loved reading Ava's story along with Catherine, piecing everything together, bit by bit as the investigation continued. Searching for any clues Ava's story could provide. "The Girl From Berlin" is heartbreaking, yet beautiful. A reminder that even in the darkest times, love survives.
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My feedback here is late to the party.  I enjoyed this book, but it was relatively forgettable.  I'd recommend it to others as a quick read.
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Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to preview this ARC of The Girl From Berlin, but Ronald H. Balson.

Liam, a PI, and Catherine, an attorney, get quite a surprise when they are asked to meet a friend at his local Italian restaurant.  His beloved aunt Gabriela is being evicted from her beautiful family home in Tuscany by a large and powerful company, and he is desperate to help her.  At the same time, feeling helpless and hopeful, Liam and Catherine take a plane to Italy hoping to uncover why, after all these years, a company is claiming to own the deeds to her home.  And through the help of some old manuscripts, the story of Gabriela's life, and the pain that she is unwilling to talk about.

I feel like the unavoidable side effect of series is that, regardless of how well they are written, how much research goes into them, they just start to feel stale.  And while this one is beautiful written, with a lot of heart and depth, I still felt like I had read it all before.  BUT, if you are not a regular with this series, I do highly recommend it.  They are excellently written.
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I fell in love with Ronald Balson's writing with his first book, Once We Were Brothers.  Since then I have read every book and they do not disappoint.  The fifth book in the Liam and Catherine series has the story moving back and forth from 2017 to WWII and Ada's history.  While you are thrown into a difficult situation with Gabi who has land with a winery in Italy, you also get to read about Ada's struggles during the time of Nazi occupation.  And her strength and resilience is absolutely amazing.  You have to read the story to appreciate Ada.

Liam and Catherine are a couple who work well together to help people who need their skills...legal and private investigation.  And their efforts reward you with twists and turns, background history, and a sense of compassion.

Thank you to NetGalley and the author, Ronald Balson, for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  I can't wait for a 6th book in this series.
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A fascinating story of love and war spanning two continents. A fairly easy read about the WW2 with a relatively happy end - a good book to read for a change from chicklit, since it gives you the feeling you're learning a bit of history along with following a whirlwind plot. 
I published a review of this book on Goodreads
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Interesting story with most likable characters.  It keeps you riveted until the end.  Just not sure if Hitler and Goebbels would have happily listened to a free Jewish woman playing the violin.
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St. Martin's Press and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of The Girl from Berlin.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart are back and are embroiled in a battle to help save a woman's home.  When an old friend of Liam's asks for their assistance in a matter involving his aunt, will their search for the truth lead the pair down a historical path?

History takes center stage in this novel and it is clear that the author has researched the events and time period that ushered Germany to wreak havoc over the world.  As Ada's story unfolds, the reader is not given, until the very end, the last little part of the connection that she has to the characters in the present.  The one thing that kept the novel from being great, in my opinion, is the foreshadowing and negative focus on one of the periphery characters.  I finished the book mainly to find out if my hunch was correct, which was a shame.  I really wanted to like this novel because of Catherine and Liam, as I have read some of the previous novels featuring these main characters.  Their involvement in The Girl from Berlin is nothing special, which was unfortunate.  The author does nothing to develop the characters of Catherine or Liam in this novel, leaving the book unbalanced and shaded toward plot.  The Girl from Berlin was good, but could have been compelling with a few changes.
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I have enjoyed many novels now by Ronald H. Balson partly due to the historical twists and partly because I enjoy the relationship of Catherine and Liam.  

They are this time in Italy trying to help a friend's aunt trace the ownership of the land she's been living on for most of her life.  Someone is claiming title which would have her evicted and she's sure the land is hers.  The study weaves through the history of the original owner via her daughter's diary of sorts and explores the land grab traits of the nazi party all accross Europe during the second world war.   Through the diaries the thread of ownership is eventually explained though I was constantly trying out my own theories.  (,I find this happens to be a lot reading these novels.).  
I cannot give away the ending so I will say that the author is very good at creating suspense, empathy and intrigue in a readable fashion.  He also includes aspects of history that may not be well known but paint more depth to history we are already aware of.  I'm sure to keep reading these.


Thank you to St.Martin's Press for our review copy.  All opinions are our own
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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.
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Catherine and Liam are back to saving the innocent from the evil. Their friend, owner of a local Italian restaurant, pleads for help. His Aunt is about to unjustly lose her farm in Italy to some major corporation. Turns out that both Gabrielle and this company both claim ownership of this property, but how is this possible? Catherine and Liam are provided with a copy of a memoir as research, but are unsure how the memories of a German girl, Ada, are helpful or pertinent to their current litigation. As the story unfolds, the secrets from the past are revealed and their impact on the people alive today are made clear.

I've had a copy of this book for a while and lost some of my files on my ereader. I am SO HAPPY to have found this one again. I didn't realize it was part of a series of books (even though I've read a few of the other ones). This book was FABULOUS! It was like getting two stories in one. You have the modern day mystery and David vs Goliath courtroom story. Then you have the Jewish German family and their story of a life under Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. I laughed, cried, and even yelled at a few characters in this book. I seriously cannot recommend it enough. Ronald Balson has become an auto-buy author for me at this point.  Five out of five stars for me.

Thanks to St Martin's Press and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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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.

This story was not lyrical, but it was well told, gritty, and 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.
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I have been reading a lot of historical fiction lately. Unfortunately most of my current reads have been poorly written .  That is not the case with this novel. The pace is even and the narrative moves forward well.  I am not going to discuss the plot as you can read it from the publisher. This is one of those books that goes back-and-forth between time periods.   In the case of this book it is not confusing.   I highly recommend.
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This was a very emotional read. I love the setting of WWII Germany. There were times that I found the story to be slow moving. However, I would recommend this for those that like The Book Thief, The Alice Network, and The Orphan’s Train.
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As a fan of Mr. Balson, this book did not disappoint. There is plenty of action to keep you wanting to turn the pages.
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