Fatal Trust // by Todd M. Johnson

//published 2017//

A few times a year I request a review copy of a book from Bethany House Publishers.  Back in 2013, I received a copy of one of Johnson’s earlier books, Critical Reaction.  While it wasn’t a book that completely blew my mind, it was still a really engaging thriller, and one that I enjoyed enough to check out Johnson’s first book, The Deposit Slipwhich I actually liked even better than Critical Reaction.  So when I saw that Johnson was publishing another book, I knew that I definitely wanted to read it.  And, conveniently, Bethany House provided me with a copy to do just that!  So many thanks to the publisher, and also to Johnson for providing yet another well-paced and engaging thriller.

Ian Wells is an attorney in Minneapolis who is slowly getting his practice where he wants it.  His dad was an attorney also, and dealt in ‘boring’ things like wills, trusts, deeds, etc.  (Actually, I worked for a lawyer who did this kind of stuff and it is amazing how boring it all is, so I totally empathized with Ian’s feelings).  Ian has always wanted to go into criminal defense, but when his dad passed away he felt obligated to take over that practice.  Over the last few years he’s been shifting to criminal law, but in the meantime he has had a lot of financial setbacks.  His mom has Alzheimer’s and is getting to the point where she is going to need 24-hour care.  Several other very expensive problems are cropping up in Ian’s life all at once.

And then he gets the phone call: a man wants Ian to help with the conclusion of a twenty-year-old trust fund – Ian must determine whether or not three men qualify to receive their share of the trust money.  In exchange, Ian gets a huge payoff.  Ian feels like there has to be something sketchy going on, but he’s reaching a point of desperation.

Johnson does a GREAT job pacing this book.  I found myself drawn right in, and every baby step that Ian takes seems completely reasonable – until he suddenly realizes that he’s completely stranded in a complicated quagmire.  Ian’s financial issues are involved just enough to make the story believable without making them absurd – just enough to make Ian ignore his gut and keep going.  The tension ratchets up perfectly – at first I was just moderately interested in Ian and his life, but by about a third of the way into the book I could hardly put it down.

The romance in this book was at just about a perfect level – enough to provide some motivation for characters but not so much that it derailed the actual story.  Like Johnson’s earlier books, there was nothing overtly religious in the story, but it was devoid of bad language, sex, and graphic violence, all of which I really appreciate.

I was genuinely impressed by the way this whole story came together.  Small details that seemed irrelevant at the time end up tying together at the end.  While I thought I had a lot of the story figured out, there were some extra twists that I didn’t see coming, but that didn’t feel at all unreasonable.  Knowing the ending made me want to read the book again and see the clues that Johnson left, which (to me) is always the sign of a good thriller.

The only really weird thing about this book was that it was set in 2018.  I never understand why books do this, because Johnson’s 2018 looked exactly like real-life 2017.  And who knows what is going to happen in the next year that could make the 2018 dates seem really weird.  I mean, if I wrote a book in 2000 and set it in September 2001 and the book never mentioned 9/11, it would seem really strange.  So that kind of threw me off, even if it is a more or less minor thing to pick on.

All in all, 4/5 for a really well-paced and engaging story, and kudos to Johnson who has a 3/3 record for producing 4* reads for me to read.  :-D

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