Sunday, November 18, 2018

Review of "The Girl from Berlin" by Ronald H. Balson - A Compelling Tale of the Aftermath of the Holocaust

Ronald H. Balson knows how to craft a compelling historical novel. In "The Girl from Berlin" he examines the insidious practices of the Nazis in trying to capitalize on valuable properties that were confiscated from Jews and other Holocaust victims. In this masterful tale. Octogenarian Gabi is in danger of having her villa, Villa Vincenzo, taken over by the corporation that controls all of the surrounding Tuscan vineyards. A local court has ruled that VinCo holds a valid deed to the property. Gabi has only a few weeks to vacate the property that she has called home her whole life. Three local attorneys have failed to help her find a way to prove her legitimate ownership of the property.

A distant cousin in America promises to help, sending his friends, Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggert to Italy to try to pull the fat out of the fire. Catherine uses her skills as an attorney and Liam employs his bag of tricks as a private investigator to get to the heart of the complex conspiracy that has been promulgated against Gabi.

The story unwinds as Catherine and Liam read a diary that Gabi has told them they must read. It was written by Ada Baumgarten, daughter of the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. Ada, a gifted violinist in her own right, writes of her struggles as a young woman and a Jew in the escalating tensions in Nazi Germany. Embedded within her tale, a microcosm of Hitler's Final Solution, are clues to the provenance of Villa Vicenzo.

The novel is brilliantly written, with each character limned with bold strokes. We come to care about both Ada and Gabi, and wonder right up until the denouement how their stories are connected. It is a virtuoso performance by a gifted writer.



Review of Pathogen Protocol" by Darren D. Beyer - Second Installment of the Anghazi Series

Author Darren D, Beyer spent ten years working with NASA on the Space Shuttle program. He draws on broad technical knowledge, as well as a childlike sense of wonder, in crafting a fascinating series of books about a galactic war for scarce resources. "Pathogen Protocol" is the second in his Anghazi series.

Mandi is the intrepid daughter of a mother who is a legend in the space exploration community, having perfected techniques that make interstellar travel possible, utilizing something called The Casimir Bridge. Mandi and her cohorts, Jans and Grae are fighting against Gregory Andrews, who has taken over part of the monopolistic Applied Interstellar Corporation (AIC). At stake is the limited supply of the rare element that enables interstellar travel. The action of this thriller is spread among a dizzying array of planets, moons, space stations, and space craft.

Author Beyer has crafted a gut-wrenching chronicle of escalating conflicts that move at close to the speed of light. Mandi and her allies are fighting against the considerable resources controlled by the Machiavellian Gregory Andrews. There are a number of battles, some land-based and others in orbit. Romance is in the air - or in the vacuum of space - as Mandi stresses over the status and health of Grae, who has been in mortal danger on more than one occasion. The stakes are high - nothing less than the future survival of humanity.