Riveting Legal Suspense from Lawyer Todd M. Johnson
Ian Wells is a young criminal defense attorney struggling to build a Minneapolis law practice he inherited from his father while caring for a mother with Alzheimer's. Nearly at the breaking point, everything changes for Ian when a new client offers a simple case: determine whether three men qualify for over nine million dollars of trust funds. To qualify, none can have been involved in criminal activity for the past twenty years. Ian's fee for a week's work: the unbelievable sum of two hundred thousand dollars.
Ian warily accepts the jobbut is quickly dragged deep into a mystery linking the trust with a decades-old criminal enterprise and the greatest unsolved art theft in Minnesota history. As stolen money from the art theft surfaces, Ian finds himself the target of a criminal investigation by Brook Daniels, a prosecutor who is also his closest law school friend. He realizes too late that this simple investigation has spun out of control and now threatens his career, his future, and his life.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Todd M. Johnson has practiced as an attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he has also taught for two years as an adjunct professor of international law and served as a U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong. He is the author of The Deposit Slip and lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter. He can be found online at www.authortoddjohnson.com.
Read an Excerpt
JUNE 8, 1998
Tight as a tendon, the boxer stood under a dark sky on a carpet of closely cropped grass leading to a coffin. With his black umbrella overhead, he shuffled his feet and stewed.
The casket, dark and shiny, was propped over an open hole lined by a knot of people on the far side. Flower wreaths decorated one end of the hole. Palm branches twisted overhead in a warm breeze, loosing raindrops from the recent shower. The refreshed air smelled of orange blossoms and grass clippings and carried the low words of the priest and a mockingbird's call from a distant tree.
It wasn't an unpleasant view, the boxer thought — Christina would have appreciated it. But it still was rotten. Rotten that his boss had lost his wife to cancer. Rotten how few people were here to pay their respects to Christina, who'd always been good to him and as much a second mother as the boss had been a second father. Even ten years ago, the boxer mused, this place would've been packed and the flowers could've filled a moving van.
He shook his head and rolled his shoulders to loosen muscles tight from his punching-bag workout that morning. But that's how life worked, didn't it? People remembered you so long as you had something they needed. When that ended, they moved on without so much as a glance over their shoulder. It was all wrong. Wrong and rotten.
The boxer looked past the coffin. A young man in a well-tailored suit held an umbrella over his prim, equally well-dressed wife. A boy in a suit and a little girl in a black dress — twelve years old, he guessed — were fidgeting restlessly at the wife's side.
At least they'd shown up, the boxer thought. He didn't think they would. That was something anyway.
The boxer sensed nervous movement at his side as a voice muttered sadly, "Where'd he get the cash for that Rolex?"
The boxer glanced to where his boss stood under the protection of his umbrella. A fedora was pulled low on the smaller man's head; his lips were pursed tight, his eyes locked on the same young family the boxer had been watching.
"How about those diamonds hanging from the wife's ears?" his boss went on bitterly. "Or the clothes that make the kids look like English royalty?" He thrust his chin toward the parking lot, his voice deepening with disgust. "And how'd he pay for that Mercedes they drove all the way down from Minnesota?"
The boxer raised a hand to signal his boss to quiet.
The gesture was ignored. "I told him we'd give it time to cool," the older man said. "Go back to real work. The inheritance will come. Don't do anything to bring attention to you." He paused, shook his head. "Now look at 'em. We're supposed to say goodbye to our Christina today, and I've got to worry about what my own son's doing to earn that kinda cash."
The dresses of women mourners rustled in a gust of breeze. The priest raised his right hand to make the sign of the cross. Like a conductor ending a symphony, the motion released everyone to trickle away from the grave toward the parking lot.
But his boss didn't move, so the boxer didn't either. Car doors were shutting and engines coming to life when the boss removed his hat and walked to the coffin to place a hand on its sleek surface, dotted with droplets like a black Cadillac in the rain.
"If he gets caught doing something illegal, it'll all lead back to us," the boss said. "We'll all pay the price. But what can I do?" The boxer winced at the open confession. He swiveled his head to see if anyone was near enough to have heard.
The grass on either side of the grave was empty. From the corner of his eye, he caught a shape on the hill at his back.
A small boy stood there — nine or ten maybe. Near enough to fall under the umbrella's shadow as the sun left the clouds. The boxer fixed his attention on the boy, who looked back with a bright stare.
I know that boy, the boxer thought, startled. What is he doing here?
Fury fired his muscles, replacing the anger at his boss's son and his graveside show of money. This boy shouldn't be here, on this day of all days, and he shouldn't have heard every careless word his boss had spoken.
Lowering the umbrella, the boxer bowed and reached out for the boy's shoulder.
"What do we think we heard, little Master?" the boxer asked, tightening to a firm grip.
The boy stayed mute. The boxer leaned further down. Fear appeared in the bright eyes.
"What do we think we heard?" he asked more insistently.
The fear went deeper. "Just what the man with the hat said," the boy responded, his voice trembling.
The boxer nodded his head. "Aye. And what exactly does the little Master think he understands?"
Excerpted from "Fatal Trust"
Copyright © 2017 Todd M. Johnson.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“Fatal Trust” by Todd M. Johnson was one of those novels you can’t put down. I was hooked from the first page. This book follows Ian Wells, a young and ambitious attorney. Ian is trying to build up his law office, while also dealing with his mom who has Alzheimer’s. While dealing with all of this, Ian gets a new case. All he has to do is find out whether three men actually qualify for nine million dollars of trust funds. Ian’s fee would be $200,000! While he is busy doing this job, Ian finds out more things about his family than he thought possible. There were so many twists and turns that I never saw coming! I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out how it was going to end. This is the first novel I’ve read by Todd M. Johnson, but it won’t be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This book reminded me of a John Grisham novel. I definitely recommend this book. I received this book from Bethany House for my honest opinion.
Too Good to be True? About to lose the law office his father started, Ian Wells is desperate to find a way to hang on. Additionally, he is the main caretaker, and financial provider for his Alzheimer’s stricken mom. His “friend,” Brook, wants to know why he has never taken their relationship to the next level—actual dating, perhaps with marriage in the future. Unknown to Brook, Ian has never had the courage to ask her. Suddenly, work on an unusual trust case falls into his lap. Even though this is outside the type of work he likes to do, he changes his mind when he is offered $250,00, more than ten times the normal fee. As Ian starts this work, he becomes suspicious about the source of the money. At first, he doesn’t want to dig too deep because the extra money could do his law practice, and his mom, a lot a good. But as time goes on, he discovers many skeletons in his client’s closets, and shockingly, in his own. Then he realizes he is being framed as the fall guy for a big crime. He doesn’t know who to trust, or how to get out of the horrible mess he finds himself in. I love mysteries and thrillers, especially legal ones. The author did a great job not giving the ending away, so the “one who did it” was unexpected, and he crafted a good story line. Despite this book being published by a Christian publisher, there wasn’t a faith message, or a Christian character in the story. Wonderfully, this is a clean tale, with no sex or profanity, along with lots of interesting characters. You will experience lots of twists and turns in this four-star book, and most likely, you will get a surprise ending. The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of Fatal Trust through Bethany House Publishing for the purpose of review. I have not been compensated in any other manner. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required, or influenced, to give anything but an honest appraisal.
I loved this story. This is the first book I have ever read by Todd M. Johnson. It will not be the last. This really held my interest. I did not want to put this down. This was a wonderful book about lawyers and trusts and how these work. There were many twists and turns. I never quite knew what was coming next. I loved Ian and his family and the people working for him. I received a copy of this book from Bethany House for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
A murder and a thirty-five year old robbery… You will continue to guess where the money comes from all the way to the end. This story was well written, and each twist and turn and plot point left you wanting more and more. It was really hard to put down. There was even a little bit of romance in the story between Brooke and Ian. Most of the twists and turns, I never even saw coming. A good chunk of this mystery was woven long before Ian was ever born, but it still affected him as a child. His mother had some problems, that I won’t get into and spoil, but it was kind of refreshing to see that explored in a book. Its not often that some of these things are explored, and usually when they are, I don’t feel it was properly. Its an issue that should be explored more and people should be more aware of it. Johnson wasn’t afraid to go there and he did it well. Its almost non stop, all the way to the end. Who will make it out alive at the end? If you want a good fast paced mystery, this is the book for you. The plot lines are very complex and build into the total mystery like a spider web. I’m a big fan of suspense books where I can read and not put it down because I NEED to know what happens next. That was this book. I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are solely my own.
This was a book that took me a while to read. Not because of layers upon layers of plots or because of the writing style, but it was more of an interest factor for me. While I do like some legal thrillers, and this one does remind me quite a bit of a Grisham novel, there were technical issues that kept me from truly enjoying the novel. The flashbacks, told in memory format, were quite irritating. It would bog the story down. In my opinion, it could have been handled in a brief summary or through dialogue. But pages and pages of memory lane tended to become old and boring. At one point of the book, a scene with a clerk was used to alert us to crisp, old money. Of course this wouldn't be a strange occurrence, but it seemed out of place. And even the following scene of the man spying on the clerk to gain the passwords. These scenes more thrown in and not developed. A portion to explain a why, which I think did matter. The ploys used in the book were the same old routine used in other books and movies: set a file aside and forget it, narrowly missing running into a bad guy, bad cop-good cop routine, etc. I think I was hoping for a fresher take on a legal thriller. While it may not have been the best story I read, it was an okay read and I'm sure there are many Grisham fans who would love to read this story. ***I was provided a copy from Bethany Publishers in exchange of an honest review***
Another outstanding piece of work from Todd M. Johnson.... Fatal Trust By Todd M. Johnson Following his father's death, Ian Wells took over his father's portion of the law practice. But his portion of the practice isn't doing as well as Ian had hoped. And caring for his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's has added an additional strain to his growing pile of bills and worry. So when an unexpected case is offered, one where he must determine where the three beneficiaries meet all the qualifications, he accepts the case. Ian agreed to take on this unusual case because of the payout, one that could end many of his current financial difficulties. But the deeper he digs, the more concerned he becomes at what he is discovering. And even more disturbing are the questions he is uncovering. And with time at a premium - one week to decide who is worthy of a share of nine million dollars he suddenly finds himself moving, not so slowly, to center-stage of a criminal investigation. With time ticking down Ian needs to uncover the truth about the trust he has been charged with handling before it is too late. If he doesn't discover the secret that someone has been hiding for years this could be his last case ever. Todd Johnson has created a page-turning mystery that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat as the suspense and danger steadily rises. Ian is a likable character whom one is rooting for throughout as he comes across the unexpected and deals his own past. This is a mystery where what you know could be as dangerous as what you don't know and Ian is caught between both. I highly recommend this book to fans of legal thrillers. Having read Todd Johnson in the past I knew I would not be disappointed and my expectations were exceeded in every way. The story opens at the climax before taking the reader to a point 20 years in the past to an incident that seems unrelated to the story and yet has a bearing that is only fully understood when the climax is again reached. The motivations and layers that are revealed as the story unfolds in no way hints at what is to come so that the mystery is not given away early. I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher Bethany House through their blogger program with no expectations of a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I first came across this book in a monthly Bethany House email. I was distraught and torn because I literally want every single book in that monthly email. Seriously, it's almost impossible to chose. But I found my loophole. I prayerfully pick one and then request the remainders from NetGalley and cross my toes that I get approved for the whole kit and caboodle. Which, as you can tell because you are reading a review right now, that I was approved! The fact that this was a legal mystery/thriller was right up my alley. The fact that it was from a Christian publishing house was like free coffee. Just a disclaimer, while this book is from a Christian publishing house it is not necessarily a Christian book. Outside of a couple of verses from 'Amazing Grace' there were no other faith elements. However, it is a clean book with no language, sexual scenarios and lacked overt violence. I was excited to dig into the story of Ian, and the backstory he uncovered with this mysterious trust. Let me get the not so positive things out of the way before I tell you why I actually really liked this book. There were entirely too many characters! OK, there probably really weren't but for someone who struggles with names (seriously, I'd probably never remember my name but for the fact I've had it way too many decades!) I was frequently confused. I came so close to grabbing a notebook to write all these people down so I could remember who was who and what they did both past and present. I almost felt like the intensity wasn't as intense as I had hoped but I'm starting to think that it's just me. Almost like I'm looking for something that was there but I didn't connect with it. That I will not hold aganist this amazing story. This book, on the positive side, had all the good stuff I look for in a mystery and/or thriller. Characters that that drew me into their conflict, a mystery that I couldn't figure out (this one really did well) OK yes I did figure out a few things but not in a way that in any way detracted from the story but actually helped it. My gravy there was one (there were several all told) bombshell that actually took me by surprise. The rest were figured out with story flow the way they should have been. I LOVE a mystery that I haven't already picked only partway into the book. Johnson gave me that so... This book really does flow well, has engage-able characters, and takes the reader on a pretty good roller coaster ride. I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
I’ll admit this is one of those times when it’s not easy for me to explain why I enjoyed a book as much as I ultimately did. The story wasn’t a gripping page-turner for me, though it did pick up more than halfway through. I didn’t make much of a connection with the characters, and Ian bordered on being too weak to me, not knowing what to do with himself in various areas. (It was nice when he’d finally show a little fire, even if it stemmed from anger.) And while I appreciate twists in a thriller, this one almost started to feel too twisty. With such a mix of different schemes and characters’ motives coming to light, it was hard to maintain a sense of the purpose(s) of it all. Nevertheless, the story was interesting enough to keep me curious, and, yes, I enjoyed seeing how it would turn out. Aside from its Christian publisher, I wasn’t sure why it’s Christian Fiction, but as the story ends with room for more problems, there’s room for a sequel. I find that sometimes the overall moral of a story isn’t contained in just one novel. _______________ Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
Attention Hollywood......need a great storyline for a winning movie? Look no further that Todd M. Johnson's new book, Fatal Trust. I just recently finished reading this novel and was truly impressed. Todd M. Johnson weaves a Crime Drama set mostly in Minnesota through a maze of murder, theft and deception from the start to finish. He is brilliant in connecting the characters and storyline into a race against time by the main character, Ian Wells. Based on both fact and fiction, the author succeeds in leading his readers on a road filled with obstacles and surprises around each corner. The phrase "I didn't see that coming" is thrust on his audience several times during the evolution of this storyline. This book is a must read for those who enjoy Crime/Suspense stories that captivate your attention with a most satisfying conclusion. Five stars for Todd M. Johnson and Fatal Trust!
I have quite a few favorite authors but I also like to read books by new.to.me authors. Todd Jonson is a brand new author to me. This is a legal suspense novel. One of my favorite kinds of reads. Ian is a likable guy but he is quite weary. So when a client offers him a great sum of money to do a simple job he grabs it. Funny though how a simple job sometimes becomes a deep entailing job. As Ian goes about trying to make sure that the three men on his list have never been in criminal activities he drawn into quite an entangling mystery. Then to top it off Ian finds himself on the wrong side of the law. Somehow Ian was trapped into a not so simple job. O! MY! This is an excellent read! If you love suspense with a legal twist then this is the book for you. *This book was provided for review by Bethany House*
Fatal Trust is abundant in mystery, suspense, action and a tiny bit of romance. It is eye-splitting in gut-wrenching thrills and chills in this book - the characters are daring, dashing, cheeky, bewildering, embellishing and emotional. They bring out the best in each other. Ian is caught up in a corner mystery He took over his father's practice after his father's passing - he has made it from wills and trusts to criminal defense - now - you think the mystery and suspense all started when he took on a criminal case right:???? Wrong!!!! It was when he took on a trusts case - How do you get into a trust case since you have only criminal cases - awesome question - MoooolAAAAHhhh - Money - his Mother is deteriorating because of her Alzheimer's - so this case - the more he delves into it - the more dangerous it becomes for him - there is a trust, murder, theft, do I need to go on - because I could - I really could? There are so many bends and turns in this one - punches in the guts - like his parents have some secrets - some serious geez man - then more gut wrenching bends and bows - this poor guy - you have no idea - you will get thrills and chills - and along with all of this there is get this - the best part - romance -- yay - romance - maybe - with Brooke (she makes him feels safe) - you have to read and find out - will his Mom make it? what is that gut wrenching secret? Will he make it through alive? if he does what does he come out on the other side to? What all is going on here? I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all the opinions expressed in this review are all my own.
I would tend to classify this book as a clean mystery rather than Christian fiction. After finishing reading Fatal Trust, no particular Christian message came to mind. As a clean mystery, it was superb. I could not help but feel Ian Well’s anxiety as his life quickly became a train wreck. His mother is slipping further away due to Alzheimer’s. The law practice he joined following his father’s death is falling further and further into debt. The case that seemed like would pay the bills may involve an armed robbery and murder cold case, and might also incriminate his parents. To say Ian was in over his head would be an understatement, and his only life preserver might be his long-time friend Brook Daniels, an attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Would Brooke be willing to put her job, her career, on the line for him? Fatal Trust is a fast-moving, action-packed story. Johnson holds his readers’ emotions in the palm of his hand from start to finish. He masterfully times the revelation of new information, often startling his readers and misdirecting them. Fans of legal stories and mystery fiction will likely love Fatal Trust. I was happy to find that I already have another book by Todd M. Johnson on my bookshelf. I extend my thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of Fatal Trust in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review.