Yes, that Tolkien. Simon Tolkien is the grandson of the famous author, no doubt a double-edged sword for a first-time novelist, but instead of the world of elves and trolls, this Tolkien delves into the world of judges and detectives. His famous grandfather, J.R.
R. Tolkien, wrote about the things he knew legends and myths. So, too, does the grandson, an Oxford-educated barrister who takes us from the manicured grounds of a mansion in Suffolk to the gritty holding cells of London's Old Bailey.
Final Witness involves a manor house, an influential politician, a secret room, an unlocked door and missing jewels, all of which give this mystery a distinctly British air. Lady Greta Grahame Robinson, the one-time personal assistant and current wife of Sir Peter Robinson, is on trial for the murder of Robinson's first wife. Her accuser is Thomas Robinson, the embittered teenage son of the murdered woman, who claims he was a terrified witness to the crime from within a hidden room. As the trial progresses, Tolkien flashes back to the beginnings of the relationship between the beautiful and enigmatic Greta and the Robinson family. Working from various points of view, Tolkien shows us the events that led to the crime, even as Greta's flamboyant attorney spars with the state's relentless prosecutor. As so often happens in the justice system, be it American or British, the truth is hard to pin down. Between the moody and troubled Thomas, his cold and angry father, and the complicated and mysterious Greta, Tolkien keeps us guessing as to the killer's identity.
Simon Tolkien has the potential to become a British John Grisham. Writing in the shadow of his grandfather is certainly no easy task, but with clever plot twists, capable handling of courtroom scenes and an unerring ability to build suspense, he has proven in Final Witness that he can uphold the family name.