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Eli's Promise    by Ronald H. Balson order for
Eli's Promise
by Ronald H. Balson
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ronald H. Balson's Eli's Promise is an intriguing historical mystery that begins in 1939 Nazi-occupied Poland, continues in a German displaced persons camp in 1946, and ends in 1965 Chicago. The author moves the reader back and forth in time to link events.

It all begins in Lublin, Poland where the Rosens (Eli, Esther and their six year old son Izaak) live close to their extended family. When the Nazis invade, they take over the family's brickyard and construction company, fronted by a local collaborator, unprincipled profiteer Maximilian Poleski.

Though Poleski claims to be protecting the Rosens - and needs Eli to run the business for him - their situation goes steadily from bad to worse. By the end of the war, Eli does manage to reclaim his son, but fears for his wife's fate. He makes a promise to exact retribution on Poleski.

In 1946, Eli and his son are in a camp in Allied-occupied Germany. Like everyone else, they have applied for a visa and the chance of a better life. Gradually, Eli learns that genuine U.S. visas are being sold and that the seller has connection in high U.S. government circles.

As he learns more about the black market operation and hears descriptions of its central figure, Eli suspects that Poleski is up to his old tricks, though he had believed him dead. He works with the authorities to trap the man, but Poleski is the ultimate survivor. As tuberculosis sweeps the camp, Eli renews his promise.

Readers catch up with Eli again in 60s Albany Park, Chicago, where he is on his own - what happened to his loved ones? The family from whom he rents suspect that he's a federal agent or a spy. Mimi, daughter of the household and a budding young journalist, aids his cause - and Eli eventually does keep his promise.

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