Title: The Trust
Author: Ronald H. Balson
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 19th September 2017
Synopsis: When Liam reluctantly returns to Northern Ireland he learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but 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 left over from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distribution to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?
Review: First and foremost, I would like to thank St Martin’s Press for sending me an ARC copy of The Trust in exchange for an honest review.
This is my first introduction to Ronald Balson’s work and I think I can quite happily call myself a fan. I thoroughly enjoyed The Trust; it was fast-paced, innovative and it really delved into the strong Irish culture as well as its turbulent past. It kept me glued to the story from beginning to end, the critics aren’t wrong when they say that this is a page turner.
The Trust is set in Northern Ireland and one of my favourite things about this novel is how Irish culture and the strong Irish family traditions are beautifully interwoven into the story. The strong bond between the Taggart family contributes to the emotional turmoil within this book; starting with Liam’s “betrayal”, we as the reader are subjected to crushing guilt, devastating grief and overwhelming fear as we progress through and, in the end, we almost feel as if we are part of the Taggart’s ourselves. Their strength and their loyalty towards each other admirable, not only do they forgive with an open heart but they are even willing to take matters into their own hands to protect their own. Balson delves into Northern Ireland’s troubled past by making the Taggart’s key players in the Troubles, a severe conflict between the Unionists and the Republicans that lasted for over 30 years. This violent side to the Taggart’s, this includes the men and the women, destroys the comfortable, warm, fuzzy image of a lovely Irish family, they are fighters and are willing to resort to violence to protect their family and their beliefs. They represent the typical Northern Irish family because there are hundreds of families in Northern Ireland today who have been affected by the horrors of the Troubles in one way or another.
I thought that Liam Taggart was a well-rounded character; not only is he a top PI in America with a loving family, he is also a lost soul with conflicted emotions and a haunting past. I loved Liam’s vulnerability, I liked his strength and also his ability to hold his hands up and admit that he needed help. I enjoyed his relationship with Catherine and how they both consider each other to be on a level playing field, both emotionally and intellectually and they really respected each others thoughts, feelings and opinions.
The plot was very well thought out and the interjection of family problems with the trust itself was very well played, it really built the tension. The book genuinely kept me gripped to the end, at 95% into the book I was still on the edge of my seat, and I felt that there were so many characters that made a lasting impression one me. However, as a character, I felt that Annie wasn’t really needed in the story at all due to the fact that main plot line with the murderer, the sub plot with the family feuds and the trust were strong enough and so an additional lost love plot thread was not needed at all. I felt that Annie only added confusion to the story, her close relationship with Fergus didn’t lead to anything, she wasn’t the keeper of any vital information and so she never added anything to the investigation. As a previous love of Liam’s, I felt that she posed no threat to Liam’s marriage to Catherine, as I said before, Liam and Catherine have a wonderful, open trusting marriage and so Annie’s presence seemed superfluous. Even at the very end, when Annie is part of a major reveal (no spoilers here), the reveal itself wasn’t needed in the story and could have been left alone and therefore removing Annie’s purpose from the story completely.
As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I would quite happily read it again but I did feel that the murderer’s identity was too obvious, in fact I had guessed it completely by half way through the book. Now, I am an avid Agatha Christie fan so, when it comes to mystery novels, I will always find myself trying to guess the murderer and, in The Trust, I did find that the clues were too prominent and it lead me to guess the identity very early on in the book. This is a minor point, a personal preference if you will, and it did not take away from the enjoyment that the story gave.
It is safe to say that Balson is a brilliant writer, the thought and the care that he puts into his stories and characters are evident and I genuinely cannot wait to see what he produces next.
Once again, a big thank you to St Martin’s Press for giving me a copy of The Trust in exchange for an honest review.