Title: The Trust by Ronald H. Balson
Liam and Catherine Series Book Four
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
The newest novel from Ronald H. Balson, the international bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers, finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle’s funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural.
When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?
As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.
As with previous novels written by Ronald H. Balson, his newest mystery, The Trust, is well-researched and historically accurate. Set in Ireland, the Taggart family and its history with the IRA are under the microscope after Liam’s estranged Uncle Fergus dies under mysterious circumstances.
Although Liam is conflicted about his cousin Janie’s request that he attend his uncle’s funeral, his wife Catherine easily him to make the trip. He is stunned to discover that Fergus made him the executor of his estate which has been placed into a trust. Equally shocking are the terms of the will and Liam finds himself on the opposite side of his cousins Conor and Riley as they attempt to remove him as the trust administrator. In between the legal maneuvering, Liam teams up with the police inspector assigned to the case to try to solve his uncle’s murder.
Liam is quite upset that he never made the effort to mend the sixteen year rift with Fergus and he is utterly confused about his uncle’s conviction that he is the only person he can trust to carry out his wishes. The terms of the will are clear but unfortunately, everything about the last few months of his uncle’s life is rather murky. Liam quickly discovers Fergus was convinced someone was going to kill him, but he was deliberately vague about who the killer might be or why he might targeted. Liam’s family is certain his murder is a vendetta from forty years earlier, but local police Inspector Farrell McLaughlin is equally convinced the killer is most likely related to Fergus.
The investigation is slow moving and Liam also must contend with inner family squabbles, overt threats and memories of his distant past. He vacillates back and forth between abdicating his responsibilities and returning home, but his remorse over his role in the longstanding estrangement is a powerful inducement to carry out Fergus’s last wishes. He is also a bit angst-ridden over Catherine and their baby’s safety but his wife is equally certain the threats she is receiving are nothing more than a bothersome nuisance. Even when the killer begins targeting other family members, Liam and the police are still unable to discern a motive for the murders and without a motive, it is even more difficult to narrow down the suspect list.
Rich with historical details, The Trust is an intriguing mystery that old and new fans of the Liam and Catherine series will enjoy. Although the investigation into Fergus’s murder is interesting, readers might a little frustrated with the lack of progress and the narrow focus on a list of very obvious suspects while glaring inconsistencies with other characters are ignored. Catherine is a little blasé about her and their baby’s safety and Liam comes across as rather unfocused as he deals with the emotional aspects of his unexpected family reunion. Despite a few minor irritations with the mystery aspect of the storyline, Ronald H. Balson provides a fascinating look into Ireland’s deeply troubled past between Protestants and Catholics that still reverberates amongst its citizens today.