The Trust: A Novel

The Trust: A Novel

by Ronald H. Balson


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“A thrilling, action-filled suspense novel.... Those who loved Balson’s other books like Once We Were Brothers and Karolina’s Twins will love this latest entry.” —The Huffington Post

The Trust, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250127440
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Series: Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart Series , #4
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 583,736
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator, and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of Karolina's Twins, Saving Sophie, and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

Read an Excerpt


Life's direction is ephemeral. Something as common as the ring of a telephone can knock it off its course. Simple as that, but I didn't see it coming this time. I had just arrived at my office, set my coffee on my desk and was starting to unfold the morning Tribune when my phone rang. Since I make my living as a private investigator and my assignments typically begin with a phone call, the ring was not unwelcome. But this turned out to be a call I didn't expect and I certainly didn't want.

It's not that my life was so predictably calm, but lately I'd settled into a comfortable routine. I had a new baby, a happy marriage and a solid investigation practice. Then the phone rang, and like the switchman in a railroad yard, it redirected my life. First I'm going north, now I'm going east.

I lifted the receiver. "Liam Taggart, Investigations."

"Liam? It's Janie."

The call I didn't expect. I sat there staring at the phone.

"It's Janie. Your cousin, Janie. The cute one. Holy Mother of God, Liam, have you lost your senses? Do you not remember your own family?"

I winced. Janie was one of a dozen cousins I had back in Northern Ireland, a clan I hadn't seen since the late nineties. She was seventeen then, a lively little dark-haired colleen. Deep expressive eyes. Little turned-up Irish nose. Full of spunk. Her voice brought back old memories. Memories I had locked away sixteen years ago.

"I'm sorry, Janie, it's just that your call took me by surprise. How's everyone back in the North?"

"Uncle Fergus died last night."

My heart sank and I swallowed hard. I feared this day would come and I knew I'd better make amends before it did. But I hadn't. Damn the call I didn't want. Fergus and I, we should have never left it like this. We had unfinished sentences, incomplete paragraphs. I could have gone to see him. We could've raised a pint, cleared the air, restored our relationship. Hell, it might have been as easy as a damn telephone call. We'd shared too much to let it end like this. Now he's gone and it's too late.

No longer locked away, memories flipped through my mind like pages of a photo album. A smiling Fergus Taggart, my father's brother and a giant of a man. Me, riding on his massive shoulders. Us, fishing in a wooden boat on the Lough Neagh. Me, sound asleep in a booth at McFlaherty's Public House, my head upon his lap. Him, slipping a fifty-pound note into my jacket pocket the day I left for America. And the pure joy of Aunt Deirdre's Sunday night dinners.

Who was it that said hours pass slowly but years fly by? It was just sixteen years ago that Fergus said the last words he'd ever speak to me.

"I don't think you and I have anything more to say to each other, Liam. You best be off now."

They were never supposed to be the last words. They were just words to end the day. Maybe the week. There would always be time to make amends. To find other words. Did Uncle Fergus believe those would be the last words or was he, like me, waiting for the inevitable reconciliation? I guess I'll never know.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Janie, truly I am. That's such sad news. How long had he been ill?"

"The funeral's Thursday. We'll talk about it when you get here. Please come."

I took a deep breath. Three days. "Oh, I don't know, Janie, I'm scheduled to —"

"Mass is at St. Michael's in Antrim, Thursday morning at eleven. The family needs you. Uncle Fergus needs you."

I furrowed my forehead at the odd remark. There would surely be no loving summons from my estranged Irish family. And Fergus wouldn't know one way or the other. I nodded to the phone. "I'll see what I can do. I'll have to get back to you."

Catherine met me at the front door with her finger on her lips. "Shh, the baby's sleeping." She gave me a kiss. "What are you doing home so early? Are you feeling okay?"

I nodded, hung my coat on the rack and went straight to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. "I got a call from a cousin in Northern Ireland," I said over my shoulder. "My uncle Fergus died. They want me to come to Antrim for the funeral."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Catherine said. "Was he sick?"

"I don't know. I asked Janie and she gave me a cryptic answer — we'd talk about it when I got there. I mean, if he died of a heart attack, wouldn't she tell me?"

"I would think so. That's a strange answer. You and your uncle were very close at one time, weren't you?"

Close? At a critical time in my life Fergus was the most important person in the world. When my mother became ill, I was sent to live with him. He and my aunt Deirdre took a scared little four-year-old boy in short pants into their home and raised and nurtured me for six years. Close? I loved him with all my heart. Still do. I needed him and depended on him and he was there for me. I blinked a few tears and nodded my head.

Catherine put her arm around my shoulders. "I'm so sorry, honey. When's the funeral?"

"In three days. It doesn't matter, I can't go. I have appointments scheduled later this week."

"Can't you reschedule them?"

"Maybe I could, but that's not entirely it. I think if I were there it would be uncomfortable. Not just for me, but for everyone. I didn't leave under the best of circumstances and I haven't talked to any of them in sixteen years. I had a falling-out with my uncle, returned to America and shut them all out of my life like they didn't exist. I'm sure the family harbors bitter feelings and who could blame them? They deserved better from me. I should have taken the initiative, stayed in touch, but I just didn't know how to start the conversation. Now it's been too many years."

"You left because you had a falling-out with your uncle? Seems to me that it takes two to have an argument."

"No, Cat, this one was all my fault. I was living a lie and I got caught. I never should have put myself in a position where I had to lie to my family. It was foolish of me to accept a posting in Northern Ireland that was bound to end in a betrayal. I don't know why I did it."

"Maybe because it was the right thing to do? And you were young, Liam. Cut yourself a break."

"At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. It was 1994 and I was a young recruit with the CIA. I'd only been with the Agency for a year when a position opened up in Northern Ireland and I jumped on it. For one thing I hadn't seen my Irish family since I was a young child and for another, Northern Ireland was the decade's political hotspot and I wanted in on the action.

"The Troubles was always front-page news for me. I followed it every day. In January 1994, President Clinton decided to get involved in the peace process. He invited Gerry Adams, the IRA's top politician and the UK's public enemy number one, to visit D.C. He arrived to rousing crowds and shook hands at the White House. It wasn't exactly what Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern had in mind, but Clinton was an effective peacemaker.

"As expected, Clinton directed the Agency to assist on the ground in Northern Ireland. Because I had family in County Antrim and could move about in the nationalist community, the Agency granted my request and posted me there. So in the summer of 1994, I returned to a grand reunion. My uncle Fergus was so happy to see me, it was like I'd never left. He gave me a bear hug so strong I thought he'd break my bones. As far as he and I were concerned, not a single minute had ticked off the clock since I was ten years old. There was my aunt Deirdre, with tears in her eyes and her arms wide open, the woman who warmly and unselfishly took me in and gave me a mother's love when I was four years old. There was my uncle Robert, always a broad smile on his rosy face. There was my aunt Nora and my wise old Uncle Eamon. They couldn't wait to welcome me back. And me, I was the undercover spy who was going to help bring an end to the war. What I didn't realize was that I had chosen a path destined to alienate me from the family I loved.

"The job directed me to use my family to spy on the Catholic community. At first, all the Agency asked me to do was to hang out in the various clubs and organizations and pass along information if I thought it was important. What's the buzz in the nationalist circles? What rumors have you heard from the republicans? Is there anything going down that we should know about?" "My uncles were prominent in republican circles and because of them, I could freely come and go in those organizations and I learned quite a bit. Some of my information saved lives, Cat. Make no mistake, I did some real good while I was there.

"Right up until the end, I was enjoying strong bonds with my family. I loved them all dearly and they loved me. Aunt Deirdre would cook these marvelous Sunday dinners and the whole family would come and gather around her long kitchen table. More often than not, there'd be an extra chair for a single girl that my aunt Nora 'just happened to know' and 'wasn't she a darling?'"

Catherine raised her eyebrows. "I'm not sure I want to hear about the darling single girls."

Catherine was right about that. Most of the girls were just passing encounters, but not Annie. Just thinking about Annie and the year we had together brought all those feelings back to the surface — feelings that needed to stay locked away where I put them sixteen years ago. What would my life have been like had I not had that falling-out, had I not returned to America in 1999, had I stayed with Annie? What would my life have been like had I not been blindsided? Had the rug not been pulled out from under my feet? I had no desire to revisit those memories now, nor did I wish to discuss them with Catherine.

"Nothing came of the darling girls," I lied. "But everything ended in 1999 when my uncles learned who I really was and what I had done behind their backs. I was the great deceiver. I was a fraud. I had betrayed them."

"Seriously, Liam, aren't you going a little overboard? What did your family think you were doing in Northern Ireland? Didn't they have an inkling that you weren't a liquor salesman?"

I shook my head. "Absolutely not. I certainly couldn't divulge that I was working for the CIA. I was sent there to secretly gather information. For five years I pretended to be working for a whiskey exporter. I even negotiated contracts for delivery of Uncle Fergus's crops to an Agency front.

"You sold your uncle's wheat to a phony CIA distillery?"

"Barley. It was barley. Single malt stuff. We brokered it to Jameson."

"And they never figured out you were CIA?"

"Not until the end. Oh, one time Uncle Fergus caught me talking to my station chief, Jim Westerfield. It was right before one of the Drumcree marches and I thought my uncle was suspicious. He questioned me about Westerfield, but Westerfield had credentials as a whiskey distributor and my uncle was satisfied. He trusted me. And of course, there we have the crux of the matter. My uncles trusted me."

Catherine nodded. She understood — it was all about trust, or lack thereof.

"Cat, my family took me in and loved me without qualification and I conned them. I played them for information. And when they learned the truth in 1999, it ended very badly. We haven't spoken since I left. I should have called. But every time I thought about it, I didn't know how to start the conversation, and every day that passed made it more difficult. Now I think it would be too awkward to go to the funeral. There are bound to be a lot of bad feelings."

"Well, staying in touch is a two-way street. He could have called you as well."

I shook my head. "Not the way it ended. I had to be the one to make the first move. And I didn't."

"What really happened in 'ninety-nine? What was so earth-shaking that it destroyed your relationships?"

I took a sip of coffee and a deep breath. "It all started with a guy named Seamus McManus. He was a technician, an IRA bomb maker. He designed and set off a petrol bomb in the Belfast Arms Hotel in 1975, killing twelve people including three children. Two years later he was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison by a judge who called him a monster. He sat in Crumlin Road Prison for twenty-two years."

"Don't tell me they released him."

I nodded. "In 1998 the Troubles officially ended with the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. I say officially because there were still plenty who wanted to keep fighting. The GFA called for the release of four hundred prisoners, and McManus was one of them. He was paroled in 1999.

"One night, barely a month after his release, with his bones full of hate and his belly full of Guinness, he clubbed a Protestant aid worker to death with an iron pipe. He was rearrested and thrown into the Antrim jail. Westerfield got word that McManus was part of a plot to set off a bomb at the Orange Parade. He wanted to plant someone in the cell with McManus to pump him for information. I volunteered. They gave me the identity of Danny Foy and threw me into the cell with McManus. My cover story was that I was arrested for plotting to shoot up a Protestant lodge. I spent two days with McManus and I got it all. Everything. The where, the when, and the names of all the conspirators that McManus was plotting with. As a result, eight men were rounded up and their guns and bombs were confiscated. The planned attack never went off. The eight terrorists got life sentences. I did my job and I was damn proud of it."

"So what was the problem?"

"Later in the week, after one of Aunt Deirdre's Sunday dinners, we were sitting on the front porch — Uncle Fergus, Uncle Eamon and me — when suddenly, out of the blue, Uncle Fergus turns to me and says, 'Kevin Donnelly told me that he saw you coming out of the Antrim jail last Tuesday with Mr. Westerfield. What the hell were you two doing there, Liam? Selling whiskey?'

"I hesitated. I couldn't tell him the real reason. I tried to bluff my way through it, but I must have had guilty written all over my face. 'Nothing,' I said quietly.

"'Nothing?' he said. 'Nothing at a jail? You weren't sitting in there talking to Seamus, were you now?'

"I don't know how he knew. My uncle had deep contacts everywhere, so he must have found out. 'I can't tell you about it,' I said. 'I'm sorry.'

"Uncle Fergus stared at me. He looked right inside of me. He bowed his head and slowly shook it back and forth. 'How long, Liam?'

"My charade was over. My disguise was gone and I stood naked before my uncles. And even then, at that moment, I couldn't own up to it. I was too afraid to answer, too afraid of losing their respect, their love. Too afraid of being cast out, as indeed I would be.

"'How long for what?' I stammered.

"'C'mon, son. The U.S. intelligence service. How long have you been snooping for 'em?'

"I let out a deep breath. There was nowhere to hide. 'Since I got here,' I said. 'Since 1994. Seamus McManus was a killer. He told me an attack was coming down in Portadown. He knew everything — the time, the location, the names of all the raiders and where the arms were stashed. I was planted to get the information and I got it. And I'm not sorry. I saved a lot of lives, Uncle Fergus. People would have died. I interceded and that's what I've been doing here in Northern Ireland.'

"'No liquor distribution?'

"'No, sir. I lied to you.'

"My uncle closed his eyes. 'All this time you've been gathering information, your so-called intelligence, from me and Eamon and Robert?' "I nodded.

"'And using it to arrest republicans?'

"'The bad ones.'

"'For all these years, Liam, you've been dishonest with us?'

"I nodded again. What could I say?

"My uncle pursed his lips, looked at Eamon and stood to dismiss me. There were tears in his eyes. "Of all the people I know ... I never thought it would be you, son. I don't think you and I have anything more to say to each other, Liam. You best be off now.' I walked off the porch, turned around, looked back and saw him hanging his head. That was the last thing he ever said to me."

Catherine took a seat at the end of the couch, tucked her legs and patted the cushion for me to come sit beside her. Her blond hair lay gently on her white cable-knit. Her smile was warm and kind. I looked into her blue eyes and drew comfort from them. I've been enamored of this woman since we were in high school and I considered the fact that she was now my wife and the mother of my son to be an ongoing daily miracle. "Come sit," she said.

"'You best be off now,' my uncle said, and I lost the best friend I ever had. The only father figure I can really remember. He was the only link to my early childhood, back when we all lived within a few blocks of each other in Belfast's Lower Falls."

"Before you moved out to the farm?"

I nodded. "I left the Falls when I was four and I don't have many memories of those days. I can barely remember my house and the room I shared with my sister. We all lived in terrace houses — narrow town houses all linked together with common walls on each side. They were called 'two up, two down' because they had two rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second.


Excerpted from "The Trust"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Ronald H. Balson.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.

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The Trust 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very fast read, and a good mystery with loads of characters. Keeps you wanting to get to the right person.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
When Liam Taggart receives an ominous phone call to return to Ireland for the funeral of an estranged uncle, he knows his life will be forever altered. Regretting the problems that divided him from his Irish family, he returns only to learn his uncle has been murdered. During the reading of the will, he learns he has been made sole trustee and all inheritances to family members must be kept secret until he is able to discover who the murderer is. This sets him at odds with his uncles, aunts, and cousins. True to his word, Liam begins to investigate, but soon learns other family members, including himself and his wife and child in American are targeted and being threatened. This novel is definitely a page turner. With its intricately fascinating plot and its many twists and turns, and the fascinating cast of characters, this book consumed me. I read far into the night, unable to put it down, eager to read on. If you like a good whodunnit, then this is a brilliantly written one! Definitely a great choice and highly recommended! I truly loved it.
eReeder 12 months ago
Lame. Predictable. The author did a lot of research, which shows well in the text, BUT - the story was over for me by the halfway mark when I figured out the 'mystery' before the protagonist PI did at the end.
booklover6460 More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. A lot of suspense and intrigue. Liam plays a major role this time around with a smaller part by Catherine. You get to know Liam's family in Ireland and discover a little about his past. You also learn more about some of the conflict that has been part of the history in Ireland. This one has you questioning who is guilty of causing so much conflict and all of the tragedies. Just as soon as you're sure it's a particular person, you decide it's another one. But the fact that it leaves you guessing until the very end is what makes it a wonderful book. This fourth book with Liam and Catherine is a good addition to the series. Each book has focused on a different story...a different area of the world. And that keeps things interesting. You learn a lot in reading Ronald Balson's books. I am looking forward to the next book coming out soon. I am expecting it to continue with a wonderful story, a lot of suspense and drama, and a history lesson to boot! Thank you to the author for an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
sh2rose More than 1 year ago
This book draws the reader in immediately and doesn't let go. The action, twists, and turns make this mystery mesmerizing. Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to Ireland for Uncle Fergus' funeral to learn he's been named the Trustee and the funds cannot be distributed until Fergus' killer is discovered. Since Liam left Ireland and his family in less than friendly terms this appointment doesn't sit well with anyone. He enlists his private investigation partner and wife, Catherine, at home in the US in the hunt for the murderer. Fergus isn't the only family member who has a murderer and the angst grows. Who knows what will happen next? I may have to read the other novels in this series! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and was under no obligation to post anything but my honest review which I have done.
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars 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.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings When I was pitched this book, I had no clue it was the 4th in a series, but the story is mostly self contained, so you can start here, but I am hoping to go back to the beginning and start there! Saying all that to say that if I spoil something from the previous books I will be clueless since I am starting here on this one.
ksnapier475 More than 1 year ago
Liam Taggart had to return to Northern Ireland for his uncle's funeral. He was not happy to return as when he left there were bitter feelings with his family. He discovers that his uncle had foreseen his own murder and that his estate was left to a secret trust to be released when the killer is discovered. This left many questions. Liam decides to investigate which leads to many old secrets. He is now in a tempest as he has been named as sole trustee. This is a well-written and intriguing book and even though this is the first book I have read in the series, I enjoyed it and was easily drawn in. It was well-researched and each page was filled with twists and turns. I recommend this book to those that enjoy a good historical whodunit. I was given this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great novel. Intriguing,interesting,suspense,mystery with twists.. set in Ireland. Held my interest through out the book
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that I have read in this series but it won't be the last. This is a wonderful murder mystery. I could not put this book down. I really like Liam and his wife Catherine. They work so well together. This is the fourth book in the series but you don't have to read the first three to enjoy this one but I hope to read the others sometime. This book takes Liam back to Ireland to help solve his Uncles murder. Liam has a lot of thinking to do during this time. I received a copy of this from St. Martin's Press for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
There are so many good things going on in this book. I sped right through it. Not only was there suspense, action, and great plot twists, you also got to learn a little history of the "Troubles" in Ireland. I went back and forth guessing the suspect so many times I thought I would get dizzy. Always a good thing when you are reading a "Whodunit". I really grew to like Liam and his family and I was a little sad when it was over. A great read with action, suspense, great character development, history of Ireland and totally unputdownable. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have only read one of Mr. Balson’s books, Once We Were Brothers. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I anticipated a tremendously fulfilling reading experience when I picked up The Trust, and it did not disappoint. Liam Taggart is a P.I. He receives a phone call from his cousin, requesting that he come to Ireland to resolve a family matter. An Uncle has been murdered and it is Liam’s job to find out why and who killed the gentleman. The Trust is full of compelling twists and plot variations on a common theme; murder for love and or money. I very much liked this book and recommend it to readers of all types.
CandyNY More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel very much. It is the second book by Balson that I've read and I'm definitely going to read his others.The setting in Northern Ireland was interesting with the information on the Troubles and history's influence on the present. I found the mystery well written and complex enough to keep me interested. I think it was very enjoyable and a worthwhile read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*hugs her*