Mark Terry

Sunday, July 15, 2012

THE TRUST by Norb Vonnegut - A Review

THE TRUST by Norb Vonnegut
Minotaur Books
306 Pages

Grove O'Rourke is a stockbroker in a hotshot brokerage in NYC. One of his oldest friends and clients is Palmer Kincaid, a Charleston, South Carolina real-estate multimillionaire (even billionaire, I suppose). Kincaid calls O'Rourke with something on his mind, but hesitates to spill it. A few days later he's dead, having drowned after falling off his sailboat.

After the funeral, Grove discovers he has, as part of O'Rourke's will, been made a trustee of his charity, The Palmetto Foundation. Mostly he's to be the deciding vote between the other two trustees, Palmer Kincaid's wife, JoJo and his daughter, Claire. Easy enough. Well, sort of... it definitely gets complicated soon and the claws soon come out.

Meanwhile, two other things are going on. First, an attorney named Biscuit Hughes (only in the south, says this Yankee reviewer), is hired by his local community to get rid of a new business, an adult superstore.

On another track, some sort of crazed killer murders a priest in a particularly grotesque way. (Yeah, it's a thriller).

Do they connect?

Of course. Particularly when Grove has a priest from the Philippines pushing him to sign a check from The Palmetto Foundation for $160 million... and Biscuit Hughes (easily the most likable character in the entire novel) discovers that one of the owners of the adult super store is a charity called The Catholic Fund.

Soon Biscuit and Grove's paths cross and they're both determined to find out what's really going on with The Palmetto Foundation, the Catholic Fund, and the weirdly mysterious priest from the Catholic Fund.

The book's pace, at least for the first half, is fairly slow. There's a huge amount of set-up going on. Vonnegut is a stockbroker, and he clearly brings a richness to the setting when it comes to the brokerage houses, their politics, personalities, and to the financial machinations possible with community foundations. He spends a lot of time on his characters, which is good, because once things really get going in the second half of the book, they seem to be skating across the surface of the world, rather than interacting with it. It's a little bit odd in that way.

Overall, I like the book quite a bit. It's refreshing in its own way to be dealing with financial markets and money laundering as the setting for a thriller, playing tennis on thriller writer Christopher Reich's tennis courts. I never really latched onto Grove, who apparently Vonnegut is trying to turn into a series character (he's apparently the main character in a previous novel, TOP PRODUCER).

So, do I think it's a great book? No. It's a little uneven in its pace and I found his occasional wandering point of view frustrating. But he's a pretty good writer with a nice handle on characterizations, he brings a lot of interesting detail to the financial world. If you're looking for something a little bit fresh, a little bit different, and you're not bothered by more deliberately-paced thrillers, then check out THE TRUST.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, apparently he is related to Kurt Vonnegut - a fourth cousin. I'm not even sure what a fourth cousin is.

Mark Terry


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