Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Trust--Another Winner by Ronald H. Balson Out Today!

Ronald H. Balson won me as a fan with my reading of his books, Once We Were Brothers, Karolina's Twins, and now with The Trust.

Balson writes drama that is real, gritty, and provocative in its coverage of past or present world events affecting us all. This time we visit Northern Ireland, still dealing with "The Troubles" as it was called...

St. Michael's, a Five-Hundred-Year-Old Gothic church, sat perched on a hill beside a river named Six Mile Water. The car park was nearly full when I arrived and the moment I pulled in I saw Jane. She was standing alongside her car in a black jersey dress, having a smoke. When she saw me she flipped her cigarette, walked quickly over and threw her arms around me.
"So glad you're here, Liam." She slipped her hand in the crook of my elbows and led me toward the church. "Everyone will be so pleased to see you."
"Maybe not everyone."
"Anyone who's not will have to answer to Janie," she said forrcefully.
We walked into the vestibule where the congregants had quietly gathered around my uncle's casket waiting to follow him into the nave. My aunt Deirdre, a black veil covering her head, held her hand firmly on the casket. She would hold on as long as she could to the man she'd loved for so many years.
My arrival turned a few heads and some acknowledged me with a nod. We still off to the right, next to my uncle Robert, Janie's father. Normally, he was the jovial Taggart, with cherry cheeks, a generous paunch and a beer in his fist. Today he had dark circles under his eyes. He warmly shook my hand. "Welcome back, Liam. It's good to see you."
"Good to see you as well," I answered. "I just wish it weren't under these circumstances."
"As do we all."
I leaned my head sideways and whispered to Janie, "How did he die, Janie? What did you mean we'd talk about it?"
"He was killed, Liam. Murdered in cold blood."

Liam Taggart lived in the United States and worked as a private investigator. It was natural to assume that the phone ringing might be for a job--but he never would have guessed that it would be both bad news and a job! His cousin, Janie, was calling from Ireland about the death of their uncle. Fergis Taggart had died the night before... Fergis and Liam had been estranged for years and Liam's first reaction was not to go to the funeral. After all, Fergus had told him to leave his home on the day they had last talked...

But Janie had surprised him during the call when she said "The family needs you. Uncle Fergus needs you." Liam's puzzlement started at that very moment... How could Uncle Fergus even know if he was there or not? And he wasn't really sure that many of the rest of the family would want him there, especially after they had found out about him... After all, some would call him a traitor...

It was at the family gathering at Doogan's, that the division of family feelings began to come out...But Janie held to her promise and quickly stepped in by introducing Liam and explaining that she had been the one to call him and insisted he come. She then pointed out that Liam was a private investigator and that the family would be fools not to use his expertise to discover who had killed Fergus... Things settled down until the reading of the Will...

Liam had been named the sole Trustee of Fergus' property until such time as the person who had murdered Fergus had been discovered and prosecuted... The characters and readers both were flabbergasted! What the victim had done was essentially state that he knew somebody planned to murder him...and he'd made sure his estate was held until everything was cleared up... The police really were being put on the spot, as was the members of the family who might have thought they would inherit, especially Fergus' children...

Essentially, placing Liam as head of the Trust with full control, brought everybody's feelings about Liam back to the front. But Fergus had so arranged it that Liam would probably be forced to take the role, whether he wanted to or not...

A legal thriller like those that often come about when a large amount of money is at stake through  family inheritance (and, even, when it is a small amount, sometimes death brings out the worst in greedy people) is surely one of the options to pursue. But so was somebody coming back to seek revenge based upon actions by the Taggart Family during The Troubles!

What actually happens is that, while Liam is in the middle of things, he spends more time learning about the family and what has happened between and among them. One strange thing was that his beloved aunt who had cared for him when Liam had lived with Fergus early in his life, had never been officially married. She was possibly going to lose the right to stay in her home!  

The family drama is engaging, familiar, yet embarrassing, as fighting begins even before the family members leave the lawyer's office for the reading of the will! While the potential historical perspective chosen by most family members as the likely answer to the death of their Uncle was certainly intriguing given what had occurred those many years ago. but really seemed unlikely... But then, more relatives began to be murdered. Fear of which old family could be after them caused both the police and family to begin remembering who they had killed...and who might still seek revenge for those deaths they had caused...

And part of that investigation naturally took place at the local pubs, where Liam, even there was remembered for another reason... I thoroughly enjoyed his being asked to sing an old Irish song from the time of The Troubles.  

Just then the band finished a number and Janie grabbed my hand and pulled me up to the stage. "C'mon, Liam. I've heard that you sing a mean 'Roddy McCorley.' Get up there!"
I hesitated, "No, no Janey. Don't do this to me," But she was forceful "Who told you that? It was Deidre, wasn't it? Janie!"
The bartender ran up with a short of whiskey and handed it to me. "The stage is yours, Liam. We're waitin'." The fiddle player nodded to his companions who picked up their instruments. "Roddy McCorley, gents."
I hadn't done this in years. I downed the shot, looked at Janie and said, "I'll get you for this." She laughed and was joined by others in the bar who smiled and prodded me on. I took a deep breath, grabbed the mic, and started slowly.
"O-oh, we the fleet-foot host of men who come with faces wan..."
My weak beginning to the anthem brought police smiles and nods from the gathering at Conway's, but in for a dime, in for a dollar and I plowed ahead.
"From farmstead and from Fisher's cot, along the banks of Ban..."
Thank God for the band behind me setting the beat. The crowd started clapping and keeping time with their feet. I got a little louder. And a little bolder.
"They come with gengeance in their eyes, too late, too late are they,
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today."
I started to hand the mic back to the guitar player, but the banjo picked up the tempo, a man ran out with another shot, and comeone shouted, "You can't quit now. On to the second verse. You're doing splendidly."
I shrugged, downed the shot and continued to embarass myself. While I sang and looked out over the crowd, most of whom had come here, to their local watering hold, to nurse a pint and enjoy a peaceful evening of music and neighborhood camaraderie, it occurred to me that these were my people, my Irish roots, my DNA. For the men and women, especially the older ones, the words to the traditional tunes came to their lips as natural as breathing. And when I got to the third line of the third verse, "For Antrim town, For Antrim town, he led them to the fray." many stood and belted the line boldly, raising their beer glasses in salute...

And there is the key to why Balson's books continue to be so popular, so real. This author takes us into the lives of characters, no matter where they are, and we feel like we become part of the lives of those characters, constantly considering how each one has been affected by the events happening in their lives...right now... as they face a future without loved ones that have been purposefully taken away from them. For in the midst, secrets always come out, supposedly hidden for a reason... I cried with Liam as he learned his father had been murdered... so many years ago... at that time, possibly, just because he was Catholic...

If you haven't read any of Balson's books, this is an intriguing book to begin! This and his other books I've read are highly recommended!


Ronald H. Balson is an attorney practicing with the firm of Stone, Pogrund and Korey in Chicago. The demands of his trial practice have taken him into courts across the United States and into international venues. An adjunct professor of business law at the University of Chicago for twenty-five years, Ron has also lectured on trial advocacy in federal trial bar courses. 

During the early 2000s Ron spent time in Warsaw and southern Poland in connection with a complex telecommunications lawsuit. While in Poland Ron was profoundly moved by the scars and memorials of World War II, which inspired him to write Once We Were Brothers, his first novel. Extensive travels to Israel and the Middle East provided the inspiration for Saving Sophie, his second novel. While on his Once We Were Brothers book tour, Ron met Fay Waldman, a survivor of multiple Nazi prison camps. Her remarkable story inspired and provided the backdrop for Ron's third novel, Karolina's Twins. The Trust is Ron's fourth.

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