Passwords and Sudden Death

broken-trust-coverIn Broken Trust, the three protagonists – Fitz,Charles and Jamie – face sudden death more than once as they struggle to untangle their investigation into the Swiss Development Bank’s manipulation of the gold market.  Fitz’s colleague Gary dies after a hit and run accident.  One of the challenges Fitz and her boss face after Gary’s death is how to get into Gary’s computer.  The SEC’s IT department figures out the password, only to destroy the hard drive because a hacker has hidden malware in one of his files.

You may not have to worry about evil bankers blowing up your hard drive, but most of us face the threat of hackers gaining access to our bank accounts, credit cards and other sensitive information. How many passwords do you have?  Where are they stored?  Do you use the same password for many accounts?  Are the passwords you create secure? Who knows? The password challenge is complex, involving cyber security, memory, documentation, and access.

When someone dies suddenly, among all of the wrenching challenges faced by the survivors, tracking down passwords may be one of the most frustrating.  In the New York Times Magazine article by Ian Urbina, “The Secret Life of Passwords,” the author recounts the very real challenge Howard Lutnick, CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, faced in the days following 9/11.  He and his staff had to recover passwords for hundreds of accounts and files after the majority of Cantor Fitzgerald’s employees died.  Although they had contingency plans for recovering passwords in a variety of situations, none included the massive loss of employees the terrorist attacks caused.   (NY Times Article)

What if you died tomorrow? In the context of your sudden death, recovering passwords is one of the many obstacles personal representatives of your estate, your surviving spouse or partner, adult children and business colleagues face as they come to terms with your death.  Someone will need to notify key personal and business contacts of your death, arrange for your memorial service, get you’re your bank accounts, make payroll, transfer your assets and responsibilities accurately and efficiently, collect life insurance policy benefits, pay estate taxes and other debts, and many other tasks associated with settling your estate and helping loved ones and business colleagues move on with life.

When was the last time you updated a central document that provides key information to identify the location of your banks, deeds, legal documents, and passwords?  If that is something you need to do, use the following link to start to pull all of that information into one document which can be stored securely either in the cloud or as a written document left with with your attorney, in your safe or safe deposit box.  We have also provided a link to a personal data organizer you can use as a guide to identify information that would be critical for your family in the event of a sudden death.    Sudden Death checklist rev 1014

To read more about cybersecurity see our related posting:  “Are You Cyber Secure?”

How did the 3 Musketeers come to life in Broken Trust?

We decided we wanted to have three main protagonists who would work together in each of our books.  As we began developing the outline for Broken Trust, it became natural to call them the 3 Musketeers as that was a nickname given to them by their Harvard classmates who saw them as inseparable.  As work continued and we began looking ahead to our next book (Broken Web – to be published in 2015), we realized we were creating a series that would chronicle the ongoing adventures of our 3 Musketeers.  Spoiler alert: We will add a fourth Musketeer in Broken Web.)


To fully develop the three characters, we started by creating backstories for Mary Catherine Fitzsimmons, Charles Haines and James Edwards.


Mary Catherine Fitzsimmons (Fitz)


Charles Haines (Chas)


James Edwards (Jamie)


We went back three or four generations and built family trees for each of them.  We then researched the economic, political and social environment for each generation of their ancestors.  Developing this historical foundation gave us a contextual backdrop for developing each character’s present-day personality, appearance, work history, life style, educational background, social, political and family values, and family dynamics.  We even went so far as creating astrological charts for our three protagonists!


To read more about these characters go to

First Brick and Mortar Book Store Stocks Broken Trust

Peter Ogura, owner of Black Sun Books in Eugene Oregon, became the first brick and mortar bookstore to stock the new thriller by Thomas Maurin, Broken Trust.

Black Sun Books

Peter Ogura, owner of Black Sun Books

The following profile appeared in the Eugene Weekly:  The son of a doctor and a nurse, Peter Ogura grew up in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. “It was a Leave it to Beaver kind of childhood,” he says. “We were big patrons of the St. Louis County Library.” After high school, he headed west to Colorado College, where he changed his major from English to political science. “I came out to Eugene for a couple of weeks in 1975,” he says, “to visit friends from home.” He continued westward to San Francisco for law school at USF. “It was there that I got into reading fiction,” he says. “The Bay Area had so many great independent book stores.”
Ogura finished law school, worked three years for legal publisher Bancroft-Whitney, then left the big city behind in favor of a move to Eugene. Two years later, in November of 1992, he opened his own tiny 900-square-foot independent bookstore, Black Sun Books, named for the novel by Edward Abbey. “It was his own personal favorite,” says Ogura, who built the shelves and assembled a start-up inventory of used books mostly, “but the only one that’s no longer in print.” After 22 years, the store’s stock now tends towards half and half, new and used. “It has evolved organically,” he says. “This is a literate neighborhood. European and Eastern philosophy, poetry and foreign lit in translation are well represented. In a bookstore, you’ll encounter the book you didn’t know you wanted to read.” You’ll encounter Black Sun at 2467 Hilyard St. in Eugene.

Broken Trust Novel Available

Broken Trust Novel is now available. Buy the book here.

Intriguing WW2 gold heist inspires modern crime solvers

Q:  What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration for Broken Trust came from a 2005 business trip to Brussels, Belgium where we were speaking at the Family Business Network international conference. During some of our spare time we visited the Belgian National Bank’s Museum of Money in the old part of the city.


International Financial Thriller by Thomas Maurin

At the museum we saw a display about what had happened to the Belgian national gold reserves during World War II. It’s an intriguing story and we thought it would be fun to develop a story set in current times to explain where the unaccounted for portion of the ill-gotten Nazi gold had gone.

In the early 1930s the Belgian government decided to start protecting some of their gold reserves by sending one-third to England and one-third to the United States and Canada.

In the late 1930s it became clear Belgium was in danger of losing the remaining one third of their gold reserves because they had very little in the way of natural protection.  In the early 1940s the Belgian government made arrangements to transfer the remaining portion of the gold reserves to France.

Approximately 200 tons of the remaining gold were packed into 4,944 chests and sent to be stored in the cellars of the Bordeaux and Libourne branches of the bank of France. Shortly after the gold was received, fears of a Nazi invasion caused French officials to move it to safer environs.  The Belgians insisted the gold be shipped to the U.S. but the gold was sent instead to Dakar in western Africa.  They moved the gold again further inland to the middle of the Sahara, about 500 km from Dakar.  Near the end of 1940, during the Franco-German armistice talks, the French agreed to pay Germany the gold as part of an atonement agreement. The Nazis quickly moved the gold out of the Sahara and shipped it to Algiers via several routes.  (See a great route map by clicking on the above link.)

Eventually most of the Belgian gold reached Berlin where it was re-smelted and hallmarked with dates from 1936 and 1937 to give the impression Germany owned the gold before the war.  Much of it was recovered after the war, but a substantial amount has not, to this day, been accounted for.  There is still some Nazi gold stored in a vault in New York pending decades of litigation about who its rightful owners are.

The antagonist in our story, Hans Mueller, is the son of the man who orchestrated the theft of one shipload of gold being transported by the Nazis from western Africa to Berlin.  Instead, having faked a shipwreck soon after the ship sailed from the African coast, and aided by an SS officer he had known since childhood, Hans senior sailed the southern route of the Atlantic away from the area he knew the Nazi submarine wolf packs were disrupting Allied shipping.

The Nazi soldiers under command of the turncoat SS officer (who had dual German and Swiss citizenship) were loaded onto a lifeboat at gunpoint and cast adrift with a hidden cache of explosives.  The explosion killed them all.  All unnecessary materials on the ship were discarded overboard in hopes of staging a successful sham wreck.  The skeleton crew that remained was part of the plot and were promised some portion of the riches in addition to being removed from the war.

After many days of sailing they arrived on Grand Cayman.  Hans senior purchased some property so that he could begin excavating an underground vault from the coral stone along the eastern coast of the island where the transport ship was moored.  Most of the skeleton crew died from unexplained accidents.  The remaining few integrated into Caymanian life and kept silent about the source of their wealth.

When the war concluded there was a lot of money to be made in the reconstruction of Europe, especially for someone with a Swiss passport, a lot of capital, and the muscle and morals of a corrupt former SS officer.  The Swiss investment bank they created is the same one run today by the main antagonist of our story, Hans Mueller II. Hans’ head of security, Diethelm Langbein, is the son of the former SS officer involved in the plot to relieve Hitler of a large quantity of ill-gotten gold.

Each of the major characters in the book are, in their own ways, carrying on activities started in previous generations, much like successor owners of family businesses.  Succession and transitions in family businesses has been our professional interest for decades and we brought a lot of that experience to the characters and their family situations.