Book Review: The Trust by Ronald H. Balson—and a Giveaway!

The Trust
Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart #4

Ronald H. Balson
St. Martin’s Press, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-12744-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

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.

Every now and then, a novel (or a movie) comes out in which an inheritance is withheld until a certain monumental task is completed. In the case of The Trust, that task involves solving a crime, a murder, and our hero, private investigator Liam Taggart, is perforce right in the middle of everything and it’s a most uncomfortable place to be.

Years ago, Liam had been an agent for the CIA and spent some time in Northern Ireland watching some of his own family, eventually leading to a deep estrangement, including with his uncle, but his cousin, Janie, called to ask him to come to the funeral. As it turns out, Uncle Fergus apparently knew he was going to be murdered and who better to solve the case than Liam? As he soon discovers, fighting over potential inheritances is greatly exacerbated by longlasting resentments going back to his activities during the Troubles so his task is much more difficult.

The story is rife with red herrings and with a plethora of suspects among family and others, enough to set my head spinning as well as there’s this obligation Liam feels, a burning need to make things as right as he can with the late Uncle Fergus and the rest of his family. The core of the story lies in the events during the Troubles and how they still affect the family years later but there’s also a good deal of character development with all of these people, to the point where I could envision myself among them. Even the Belfast police, Sergeant Megan Dooley and Inspector McLaughlin, are well-rounded and important players in the tale and, in the end, Liam learns something that’s life-changing for himself.

Interestingly, Liam’s P.I. instincts don’t work well this time, perhaps because he’s too caught up in family dynamics, and readers may be a bit put off by his…and his wife, Catherine’s…seeming inability to develop and follow the clues but I found it made this couple and the case more intriguing. I wouldn’t want it to happen often or even occasionally but it worked in The Trust because of the family and national history. All in all, this was a very engaging read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of The Trust by Ronald H. Balson,
leave
a comment below. One winning
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pen
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Book Review: Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway

Bad Blood
DS Lucy Black #4
Brian McGilloway
Witness Impulse, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-268455-4
Ebook
Available in paperback late July 2017

From the publisher—

A young man is found in a riverside park, his head bashed in with a rock. One clue is left behind to uncover his identity—an admission stamp for the local gay club.

DS Lucy Black is called in to investigate. As Lucy delves into the community, tensions begin to rise as the man’s death draws the attention of the local Gay Rights group to a hate-speech Pastor who, days earlier, had advocated the stoning of gay people and who refuses to retract his statement.

Things become further complicated with the emergence of a far-right group targeting immigrants in a local working-class estate. As their attacks escalate, Lucy and her boss, Tom Fleming, must also deal with the building power struggle between an old paramilitary commander and his deputy that threatens to further enflame an already volatile situation.

As the entire world knows, the US is going through some real upheavals these days with very little “DMZ”—we’re becoming more polarized with each new jawdropping revelation or open-mouth-insert-foot blunder. What’s most disturbing to many of us is the seeming rollback in behavior towards others, particularly minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disadvantaged. I actually believe that’s not a change but, rather, evidence that those who are so hostile to others have always been so and have been hiding it until now when they feel emboldened by some of our leaders.

It’s kind of a relief to see such behavior front and center in Bad Blood although I’m well aware that these issues are not new anywhere but are symbolic of societal unrest that has been simmering for many years in much of the world. It’s a relief because, for just a few hours, it’s possible to tell oneself, “See, it’s not just us, thank heavens”. No, that’s not the most enlightened outlook but there it is, another reason to like this very good police procedural beyond all the bookish reasons.

Northern Ireland is an intriguing setting in many ways, not least of which are the Troubles and lingering ills that have so much effect on the people. Detective Sergeant Lucy Black and her colleagues have much to deal with beyond the simple facts of crime with vicious attitudes of hatred and racism making those crimes so much more intense. In this pre-Brexit atmosphere, you can feel the roiling emotions on both sides of the issue and the way murders and assaults are affected along with the added pressure to Lucy and others in law enforcement.

Besides being a bright woman dedicated to good, honest police work, Lucy is kindhearted, an attribute that stands her in good stead in her position with a unit that specializes in crimes against those who are disadvantaged. Working with her boss, Detective Inspector Tom Fleming, Lucy’s latest case is the murder of a teen, coming just after vandals graffitied the home of a Roma family. Before it’s all over, corruption in the police rears its very ugly head and some very disparate cases begin to intertwine.

This fourth in the series was my introduction to DS Lucy Black and I’m very glad to have made her acquaintance. Mr. McGilloway includes some in-depth looks at Lucy’s personal life as well as her work and I feel as though I know her quite well already but I’ll enjoy spending more time with her in her three earlier books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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An Excerpt from Bad Blood

The hall was already packed by the time Detective Inspector Tom Fleming arrived. The air was sweet with perfume and talc and, beneath that, from the farmers still wearing their work clothes, the scent of sweat and the smell of the earth.

The congregation were on their feet, being led in the opening hymn by Pastor James Nixon. Fleming smiled apologetically at those he squeezed past to get to a free seat in the third row from the back. The hymn finished, the assembly took their seats just as Fleming reached his, and settled to listen to the words of Pastor Nixon.

‘My brothers and sisters, it is a great honour to be here with you this evening and to see so many of you have taken the time to come and pray with me.’ His voice was strong despite his age, a rich baritone still carrying the inflections of his native Ballymena accent.

‘But it is a time of great challenge for us all. Daily, all good people face an assault on their morality with the rampant homosexual agenda that assails us and belittles everything we hold to be true and dear. Men of conscience are tried for refusing to make a cake celebrating homosexuality or print leaflets and posters furthering that agenda. And on the other side of the border, the Irish Republic has voted to allow homosexuals to marry, as if two women playing house is no different to the consummated union of a man and a woman. As if it is not a perversion which shames us all.

A few voices appended his comment with ‘Amen’.

Nixon raised his hands, acknowledging their support. ‘There are those who would silence me, silence us. They tell us we must accept homosexuals in our town, our shops, allow homosexual bars and public houses to operate on our streets. We must allow sodomites to teach our children and to corrupt our young. We must stay silent while a new Gomorrah is built next to our homes and farms, our shops and schools. They say I am dangerous. They say I preach hatred. They say I should be silent. But I say this: I say that there is no danger in truth. I say that there is no hatred in goodness. And I say that I will not be silent.’

Another chorus of ‘Amens’ greeted his proclamation, accompanied by a smattering of applause which began at the front and rippled its way through the hall.

‘I will not stand idly by as our families are exposed to sin and depravity. I will not countenance the laws of the land being used to protect profane persons, allowing them to indulge their lustful practices, forcing those of us with consciences to humour this lifestyle. It is an abomination. The people who practise it are abominations and, like those before them, they will end in fire and brimstone.’

Fleming glanced around at the others in the congregation. While one or two shifted uncomfortably in their seats, for the most part the listeners sat intently waiting for Nixon to continue.

‘Friends, only last week, I read of an African nation – a heathen nation, a Godless nation – who arrested two men for homosexual acts. One of these men was sixteen. Sixteen! And do you know what they did to the pair of them? They stoned them. They took them out of the town and they threw rocks at them until the pair of them were dead. And do you know what I thought? Shall I tell you?’

An elderly lady in the front row called out ‘Yes’, to the amusement of those around her. Nixon smiled mildly at her, as if indulging her.

‘Stoning was too good for those men. Every rock that struck them was a just reward for their sinfulness, their immorality, their ungodly behaviour. Every drop of their blood that stained the ground was a reminder that they deserved to die. It was the wages of their sin!’

***

Excerpt from Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway. Copyright © 2017 by Brian McGilloway. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lucy Black series, all to be published by Witness. Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their four children.

Catch up with the author:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

 6/26 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
6/28 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
6/29 Guest post @ Writers and Authors
6/29 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
6/29 Showcase @ Thoughts in Progress
7/01 Guest post @ Mythical Books
7/03 Interview @ A Blue Million Books
7/06 Review at Tales of a Book Addict
7/07 Review @ Bless their hearts mom
7/07 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
7/10 Showcase @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
7/11 Interview @ Cozy Up With Kathy
7/12 Review @ Blogging with A
7/13 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
7/14 Review @ The Book Divas Reads
7/15 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook
7/17 Review @ Buried Under Books
7/18 Showcase @ Curling Up by the Fire
7/24 Review @ Rabid Readers Book Blog
7/25 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
7/26 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
7/27 Guest post @ Loris Reading Corner
7/28 Review @ A Bookaholic Swede
7/31 Guest Post at Romance Under Fire

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Book Review: Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel #6
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-63388-259-1
Trade Paperback

A man is found dead in front of his home killed with a crossbow—not exactly your run-of-the-mill murder weapon. When Sean Duffy  arrives at the scene of the crime, it had not been secured. Onlookers were milling around, trampling evidence,  including a goat that was trying to eat the victim’s shoelaces. When Duffy asks after his partner, he discovers that the victim’s wife, Mrs. Deauville, a Bulgarian, stabbed Sergeant McCrabben with a fork, and he’s been taken to the hospital. Was the late Mr. Deauville  a new drug dealer trying to break into the scene?

Duffy discovers that there had another attempted murder with a crossbow. The popular theory among the police is that the Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries, who divided up Belfast’s drug trade during the 1980s, are having some sort of turf war.

Set in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, there are plenty of mean streets, housing projects, gritty atmosphere, and Catholic/Protestant tensions pulsing through the story. Even Duffy’s home life is tense—his partner Beth is from a well-to-do Protestant family—and now that they have an infant daughter, things aren’t the same. Beth is researching her thesis, and feels pressured.

A great setting, sympathetic characters and a plot with plenty of surprises combine for an entertaining read.  Sixth in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2017.

Book Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty—and a Giveaway!

Rain DogsRain Dogs
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel #5
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, March 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63388-130-3
Trade Paperback

Detective Sean Duffy of the RUC is back. In this dour, gritty novel of late Twentieth Century Northern Ireland, frustrations run high. A visiting British journalist, Lilly Bigelow, has apparently gone for the high jump off the castle keep at an ancient fortress near Carrick in Northern Ireland. It is your classic locked room mystery.

The place was locked up tight and all visitors gone. Only one man, the 60+ aged caretaker is on premises and his inspections revealed no other living human. Yet early on a frosty morning said caretaker discovers the suicided body of the young woman.

Ready to close the case as a legitimate suicide, Duffy and his team learn the coroner is adamant that she was killed-murdered-the night before. It becomes clear that the caretaker didn’t murder the woman so who did, why, and how did the murderer get in and out of the place, called Carrickfergus Castle? The fascinating solutions to these questions and attempts to arrest the perpetrator form the central plot of this firmly constructed novel. And there is no sagging in the middle.

The pace of the story is neither plodding nor racing about. There is time for several textural and atmospheric contemplations. It is the talent of the author showing in that these occasional asides enhance and enrich the novel and provide readers with a deeper sense of the principals. Well—researched, Rain Dogs is a witty, dark and thoughtful experience. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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To enter the drawing for
a paperback copy of Rain Dogs
by Adrian McKinty, just leave
a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
night, May 16th. This drawing
is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty—and a Giveaway!

Gun Street GirlGun Street Girl
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel #4
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, March 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63388-000-9
Trade Paperback

Another powerful and excellent offering from a superb writer and publisher. I won’t reveal the basis of this excellent political suspense novel because that would spoil the surprise. It’s a stunner and a real stick in the eye.

Sean Duffy is an older, nearly burned-out, detective and something of an anomaly. He’s a Catholic copper in the Royal Ulster Constabulary of Northern Ireland. The RUC is an intensely protestant law enforcement agency and in the time this novel is set, the mid-eighties when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan ruled the western world, Duffy had his internal problems in addition to solving the murders and other crimes. Crimes of all sorts, large and small, proliferated in Northern Ireland during this period.

Duffy seconds a younger, less experienced, detective in their Belfast unit when a prominent couple is discovered executed in their loungers before the large television. Their son is missing. As the case develops, Duffy struggles with near despair over the level of violence and economic downturn in the country. He struggles as well with an attractive offer to move to England and join MI5, the British equivalent of the FBI. The job would entail far less action and more desk work. Duffy is torn, not least because the offer comes from an attractive woman, the Gun Street Girl of the title.

McKinty is a powerful writer in complete control of his medium. The novel thunders along amid rocks, bullets and political and emotionally fraught maneuvering by Duffy’s superiors. It is by turns, thoughtful, moody, precisely on target and exploding with action. The darkness is expertly leavened with humor of a conscious sort that only enlarges and enhances the fine characters and setting. It is amazing that McKinty hasn’t been swept up by one of the large publishers. A rare and outstanding effort.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2015.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Leave a comment below to enter the
drawing
for a trade paperback copy of
Gun Street Girl. The winning name will be
drawn on Monday evening, March 9th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Reviews: In the Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty and Brooklyn Graves by Triss Stein

In the Morning I'll Be GoneIn The Morning I’ll Be Gone
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel;
The Troubles Trilogy, Book Three
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61614-877-5
Trade Paperback

This, the third novel in his Troubles Trilogy, is the darkest and the most complex. It is not devoid of humor. Sean Duffy, a cop in the protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, (RUC) has finally seen his attitudes and conflicts within the police hierarchy come back to haunt him. He’s chucked out of the force on a trumped up charge. A few weeks later, MI5 comes calling. So right away readers may wonder about that charge of hit and run.

This all sets the tone of this dark novel about the conflicts between warring sides in the Irish Troubles of the Nineteen-Eighties. Duffy, a Catholic in a protestant-dominated landscape, sees old school friends escape from prison, sees them die in fights with occupying British Army units and the RUC and wonders about the morality, the ethics of it all, and he sees the ruination of a society he truly loves.

A master bomber of the IRA, a dangerous man Duffy knew well, escapes from prison and Duffy is recruited to find him before his potentially high-profile act of ultimate destruction can be carried out against Her Majesty’s Government. Will Duffy find the right threads? Will his fascinating interactions with old and new characters result in success? Or will he become a witness to horrific failure?

Well-written, well-organized this taut dark novel is truly a gripping experience. McKinty is a fine writer with penetrating insights into the makeup of all kinds of people involved in the Irish scene at that time. It is fiction, but the stunning climax will remain with many readers for a long time. As it should. For though the novel is set in the previous century, it has much to say about our troubles of the present time.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Brooklyn GravesBrooklyn Graves
An Erica Donato Mystery #2
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0217-9
Hardcover

This novel is the second Erica Donato mystery, and, like the first, Brooklyn Bones, it’s not all about a contemporaneous crime, but involves the past.  In a way, this is fitting, since the protagonist is working on a PhD in history.  As in the first in the series, it takes place in Brooklyn, NY, home of the Green-Wood cemetery, where many Tiffany windows adorn mausoleums, and Brighton Beach, home to numerous Russian immigrants and nicknamed Little Odessa.

The plot involves the murder of a Russian immigrant, Erica’s friend and the father of her daughter’s friend, whose second job was as a night watchman at the Green-Wood cemetery, and the theft of a Tiffany window from one of its mausoleums. This gives the author the opportunity to delve into history, as she reviews century-old letters of an artist who worked for the famed glassmaker.

The story moves a bit slowly, weighed down by Erica’s personal life, complicated by her widowhood, the pressures of her studies, her own insecurities, and the raising of her 15-year-old daughter.  But in the end, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.”  Yet Triss Stein is carving out that territory as her own.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2014.

Book Review: I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty

I Hear the Sirens in the StreetI Hear The Sirens in the Street
Book Two, The Troubles Trilogy
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, May 2013
ISBN 9781616147877
Trade Paperback

This is the second book in this author’s three part series called The Troubles  Trilogy. I can’t wait for book three and I’m looking now for the first book. This is just dynamite.  Strong, evocative writing that just won’t let go of you.  What’s more, it is first person often present tense which is difficult and far from my favorite style.

Author Adrian McKinty has the chops to write about Detective Sean Duffy as he goes about his daily struggle as a police detective in Northern Ireland where he not only has to deal with his own RUC administration, but with the British army, the IRA, the “neutral” business community, and even American law enforcement.

A mysterious body turns up in a trunk, minus many body parts which makes identification difficult and any links to other odd crimes even harder. Yet Duffy and his principal colleague persist, even against administrative incompetence and reluctance.  In these bitter, violence wracked pages, the author takes readers firmly by the arm and shows us what life was like in 1982 Belfast when the Falkland Island War began and drugs, unemployment and random violence was common. It is not a pretty picture, but the author is skillful, passionate and a fine story-teller in injecting bits of humanity along the way.

Sean Duffy’s life is fast descending into total ruin but he struggles on to find the truth of the death of the man with no arms.  Painful as the path becomes, we cannot look away. A wonderful, dark, reading experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.