The Trust by Norb Vonnegut

By Ekta R. Garg

July 25, 2012

Rated: Borrow it

A stockbroker riding the crest of Wall Street gets involved in a shady scheme when he reconnects with people from his past.  As he tries to discern what is true and what is false, all the while balancing the protocol of gentility in the South, he finds himself at the heart of a proposition that quickly goes from bad to worse.  Norb Vonnegut (distant cousin to acclaimed twentieth-century writer, Kurt Vonnegut) uses his own experience on Wall Street to build his thriller, The Trust, with believability and the right touch of cynicism, all with a touch of panache.

Grove O’Rourke knows something is wrong when he gets a phone call from his mentor, Palmer Kincaid, summing up in the first line of the book, “In my business, nothing good happens on Friday afternoon.”  Something in Palmer’s voice hits a nerve inside Grove, but Grove ignores the nagging feeling until he gets the news that Palmer has been found dead on the shore of Charleston, South Carolina.

Palmer’s death carries significant weight for the Southern city.  As the head of the Palmetto Foundation, Palmer was responsible for millions of dollars in charitable funds.  His organization functions as the conduit for philanthropists who may not want their names known.  Donors give money to the foundation and propose the recipients of their funds.  Once the money reaches the foundation’s bank account, the foundation retains all control of who gets the money.  Contrary to how many other such organizations operate Palmer always strove to honor the donors’ wishes, earning their respect as well as the respect of the Charleston community at large.  His death, then, makes a statement.

Palmer’s only daughter, Claire, calls Grove with the news of Palmer’s death and the urgent request for Grove to come to South Carolina to help sort out Palmer’s final wishes.  Grove, reeling from Palmer’s death, agrees and makes the trip down the coast, where he is presented with the opportunity to join the Palmetto Foundation’s board and become a voting member to determine where the foundation should direct the money it receives.

But within days of accepting the position and authorizing (with some hesitation) a $25 million donation, Grove quickly begins to realize something does not make sense.  He crosses paths with Biscuit Hughes, a lawyer from Fayetteville, North Carolina, who has a case to fight on behalf of some Fayetteville residents protesting the opening of a sex superstore in that town.  Together the two start uncovering the reality that drives the Palmetto Foundation, and when a key figure within the foundation disappears Grove understands he has lost the luxury of time in figuring out the entire financial scheme.

Author Norb Vonnegut flows from one scene to another without much respite.  Readers will hear from Grove in first person while other scenes are told in third person, and Vonnegut keeps the balance just right.  The shift in point of view never feels out of place and actually heightens the pace for two-thirds of the book.  Grove’s character comes through loud and clear—someone with the cynicism of a Wall Street employee who also possesses enough guts to take a risk when needed, all the while offering readers just the right amount of style and bravado.

To Vonnegut’s credit, he doesn’t make Grove a superhero.  Grove makes stupid mistakes just like everyone else, and when the villain is revealed for a while it looks as though Grove’s stupidity may get the best of him.  This clever device will keep readers up at night and wanting to read just one more page.

Readers may feel, however, that the name of the villain was revealed just a little too early, and a certain section toward the end of the book—when Grove finds himself in trouble—may feel like it’s dragging.  It feels as though the story is treading water, waiting in place while other characters catch up, and this actually slows down the pacing of that particular section.  But thankfully Vonnegut doesn’t keep his characters or his readers waiting too long, bringing the book to its climax and revealing all the necessary points in the end.  A minor detail hints at a sequel, or, at the very least, the return of some characters in a future book, and it will certainly pique the curiosity of readers following Vonnegut’s work and wanting to know what happened next in that specific case.

I recommend The Trust for any readers who enjoy a fast-paced book about a hero embroiled in the complications arising from that oldest of evils: money.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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