ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS by Ronald H. Balson
It would seem by looking at the best seller lists that we have a glut of legal thrillers on the market. With this being the case would it be possible for there to be room for one more? I certainly hope so as Ronald H. Balson's first novel is well worth reading and it is a legal thriller -- but with a twist. His story concerns a holocaust survivor who accuses a prominent Chicago businessman and philanthropist of being a Nazi war criminal. The accused's guilt or innocence makes up the crux of the story.
Elliot Rosenzweig is the man accused of horrendous crimes during World War II. This puts the city in shock as he has been a popular fixture on the Chicago business and social scene for decades. Now Ben Solomon, an ordinary man has accused him of being the man who betrayed Solomon's family and stole their wealth. Solomon said he and Otto Piatek, Rosenzweig's alleged name, had been raised as brothers during their youth. But during the war Piatek turned on his family with horrendous results.
Solomon is desperate to have his day in court and he hounds attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case. The more she declines the more avid Ben becomes, even though the evidence and the law are stacked against him. By taking his case Catherine knows she will be fighting an uphill battle and she also knows it could cost her dearly. She could lose her position with a prestigious law firm in Chicago.
Balson, an attorney, originally self published his story. Then he had the fortune of having it picked up by a major publisher. And rightly so, as this is as compelling a story as you would ever want to read. It delves into the horrors of the holocaust and the attempts by certain parties to bring the evil ones to justice.
The characters are all fascinating in their individual ways. Rosenzweig is righteously upset by the allegations and even seeks to find the real Otto Piatek in order to clear his name. Ben Solomon is quirky in his demeanor but determined in his goal. He is on a mission and he will not stop until his version of justice is secured.
Catherine is the woman in the middle of these two men's objectives. She is coerced by Rosenzweig and his supporters to drop the case, and she is hounded and pursued by Ben who sees her as his last real chance to get justice. As you read this story you understand the actions of each of the three.
There are many, many legal thrillers on the book market today, and there are always novels concerning the holocaust coming forth one after the other. Still this book is different in its passion and its presentation. It is worth your time and you won't be disappointed. ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS is a new look at an old story, and it will stay with you long after you have finished it.
ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS is published by St Martin's Griffin. It contains 400 pages and sells for $15.99.
Jackie K Cooper