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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of The Trust by Ronald H. Balson,
leave
a comment below. One winning
name will
be drawn Sunday evening,
September 24th. This drawing is o
pen
to residents of the US and Canada.

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.