Judith D Collins
By: Ronald H. Balson
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication Date: 9/19/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars 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.
International bestselling author, Ronald H. Balson returns with his powerful Liam and Catherine series, following (2016) Carolina’s Twins (#3), (2015) Saving Sophie (#2), and Once We Were Brothers (#1) with THE TRUST — (#4) A riveting murder mystery mixed with history, and dark family secrets, set in Northern Ireland.
Liam Taggart a private investigator receives the news his uncle has died and gets called away to attend the funeral. His childhood home in Northern Ireland. He has not returned since a family disagreement years ago.
His life was comfortable now. A routine. His new baby, a happy marriage with Catherine and a solid investigation practice. However, the one call from his cousin, Janie may change things entirely.
Uncle Fergus. He had feared this day would come and he knew he had to make amends before it did. Now it was too late. They had unfinished sentences. Words left unsaid. They had shared so much to end this way. Now he was gone.
Their last words, sixteen years earlier. They were never supposed to be the last words. His estranged Irish family. Janie wants him to come and he would rather not.
He had not left under the best of circumstances. He had a falling out with his uncle and returned to America. He was living a lie and got caught. He should not have accepted a posting in Northern Ireland that was bound to end in a betrayal. At the time he was young and he thought it was the right thing to do.
He was the uncover spy who was going to help bring an end to the war. What he did not realize was that he had chosen to alienate himself from the family he loved.
The job directed him to use his family to spy on the Catholic community. He had done some good. He returned to American in 1999. When his uncle learned he really was and what he had done behind their back. A fraud. He had betrayed his family.
He was with the CIA when he pretended to be working for a whiskey exporter. His family took him in and he conned them. It ended badly. He does not want to attend the funeral and face everyone. He had thought his decision courageous and for the right reasons.
He decides to return to made amends. He goes alone since Catherine has the baby to look after. A white envelope. His aunt Deirdre found in the mailbox the day Fergus was killed. A photograph.
“May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten.”
They go through his belongings and in his box was a sealed envelope with Liam’s name with a handwritten letter. It mentions in the letter if the cause of his death is suspicious or the result of a homicide, then the person responsible must be identified and brought to justice before his estate is distributed.
He will be in charged with handling his estate. Executor. His legacy will be in Liam’s hands. “You’re the only one I can trust. My warning to you: be careful and do not trust anyone?" With love, Uncle Fergus
His uncle was proud of him. How he wished they had been close so he could have reached out to him earlier. What was so dangerous that Fergus’s words, “threatens everything I value?”
Death threats? The inheritance will be postponed until the killer is prosecuted. After everything is paid, the remainder of Mr. Taggart’s estate is left to a testamentary trust. The trustee named is Liam Taggart.
The trust remains sealed to all but the trustee, pending the occurrence of a certain condition set forth in the instrument.
Some family members are not happy about this turn of events. Until the son’s killer is caught and prosecuted, no one gets anything. It sits in trust until decided how to be maintained and final distribution.
Did his Uncle know he was going to be murdered? Why didn’t he identify his murderer in the trust?
Motive? The Taggart connection to the IRA and Fergus must have made a lot of enemies back in the day. An old vendetta? Money was also a strong motivator.
Who coveted Fergus’s property so strongly that they would kill him for it. The beneficiaries? His two sons, Conor and Riley, seemed well off, but you never know. Robert and Eamon would never have killed their brother for money. Would they? Janie was also a beneficiary. It couldn't be Deirdre. What about Bridget?
Now, will other family members be in danger? Then the threats. “Payback time Taggarts.”
Old doors are opened and secrets are revealed.
From the stunning front cover, the first page, to the last. Riveting dark hidden family secrets. A blending of history, suspense, and gripping mystery murder thriller.
As always, Balsom’s books are well-researched, with well-developed characters infused with intriguing historical events.
I enjoyed catching up with Liam and Catherine and learning more about The Troubles, an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century. The conflict was primarily political and nationalistic, fueled by historical events. Unionists and the British government referred to the long-running political violence as a law and order problem of ‘terrorism’.
For fans of intelligent, compelling and intriguing historical suspense thrillers.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. I also purchased the audiobook narrated by Fred Berman for an engaging performance.
About the Author
RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator, and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues including Poland, which served as the inspiration for his first best selling novel, Once We Were Brothers. A love of history, the Middle East, and traveling inspired his second novel, Saving Sophie. He returns to Poland for his upcoming novel, Karolina's Twins, due out September 2016.
Balson was a finalist for the Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction in 2014 and a finalist for the Premio Bancarella Italian Literature Award in 2014. He was an honoree at the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award dinner. Read More