A British teenager accuses his stepmother of conspiracy in his mother's murder in Tolkien's absorbing if uneven debut legal drama. The book pits 16-year-old Thomas Robinson against the beautiful, social-climbing Greta Grahame, who married Thomas's father, Sir Peter Robinson, a prominent politician, soon very soon after Lady Anne Robinson was killed. Thomas, who witnessed his mother's murder by two armed robbers, alleges that Greta was behind the killing. His courtroom testimony alternates with Greta's, and with a third-person narrative that at times contradicts both of the witnesses and keeps the reader in suspense. As Tolkien spins his tale, he explores the tense relationship between Greta, formerly Sir Peter's personal assistant and a working-class Manchester girl, and the well-born Lady Anne. The book is fast paced and crisply plotted, with Tolkien elegantly piecing together the different perspectives and introducing unexpected twists. Yet the characterizations are quite thin and stereotyped, and Tolkien relies on elaborate physical descriptions and heavy-handed, oft-repeated epithets ("green-eyed Greta" or a police officer's "sinister smile") to fill in the gaps. Readers may also be disappointed by the ending; after all those nail-biting twists, characters turn out to be more or less as they initially seemed, and tidy reconciliations strain credibility. Still, this is a promising first effort from Tolkien; one hopes that in the future he will be able to handle his characters as masterfully as he does the plot mechanics. (Jan.) Forecast: As the grandson of the celebrated author of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien will attract more attention than most first-time British thriller writers published in the U.S. Three-city author tour; 75,000 first printing. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
This debut novel by the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien combines elements of courtroom drama, family saga, and psychological suspense. Teenager Thomas Robinson secretly witnesses the murder of his mother, Lady Anne Robinson, and believes the crime's instigator to be the beautiful but working-class assistant of his politically prominent father. Said assistant, Greta, quickly becomes Thomas's stepmother, increasing Thomas's estrangement from both father and stepmother. Tolkien, an established and successful barrister, deftly interweaves trial scenes with flashbacks to the crime and to Thomas's attempts to prove Greta's guilt. Unfortunately, none of the characters are developed to the point of becoming interesting or even likable, and the extent of the father's betrayal of his teenage son strains credulity. Tolkien reads his own work but fails to enliven or invigorate it. This may be in demand by curious patrons drawn by the Tolkien name; otherwise, not recommended.-Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Standard-issue murder-mystery dramatics unfold in a world far, far away from Middle Earth. Yes, he's one of those Tolkiens. This being the debut novel from the 43-year-old London barrister-and grandson of the late, great J.R.R.-Simon is not exactly what you would expect, considering the family name, and that's most likely a good thing. Undoubtedly, there's another family member out there wondering why The Lord of the Rings had to end. In any case, Simon's first book is not about elves or magic at all, but rather something closer to Jeffrey Archer territory. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Robinson is the bookish and retiring son of England's rather imperious defense minister, Sir Peter Robinson. Lady Anne, Thomas's mother and Peter's wife, was murdered a year before the story opens by a couple of thugs plundering the ancestral manse. Only things aren't quite as simple as that. Peter's rather too-efficient personal assistant, Greta, had been hanging about the house quite before that, and Anne, being a sensible upper-class British wife, knew a gold digger when she saw one. Tensions had been running high, and Peter had as much as moved out by the time of the murder. To the horror of the already devastated Peter, Thomas accused Greta of the murder. All of this is laid out before the reader in a series of flashbacks that jump back to different points in the tumultuous previous two years and then snap forward to the future and the high-profile murder trial of Lady Greta Robinson. Thomas is obviously terrified, as the same men who killed Anne have already come back to the house once to kill him. There's nothing exactly wrong with what transpires here: Final Witness is efficiently rendered stuff, butthere's little to shout about. Tolkien knows his way around a courtroom, that's for sure, but that doesn't stop him from resorting to Perry Mason-like cliché if the mood strikes him. First printing of 75,000
“A legal thriller ripped from tomorrow’s headlines . . . a remarkably skillful novel, brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“THE TWISTS KEEP COMING. . . . [A] HIGHLY CONVINCING DEBUT.”
–People (Page-turner of the week)
“TOLKIEN’S WRITING HAS A TIMELESS QUALITY [and] the haunting undertones of other great masters of mystery.”
“BRIMMING WITH SECRET ROOMS, SECRET DRAWERS, AND SECRET MARRIAGES.”
“HALF CHRISTIE AND HALF GRISHAM.”
–Los Angeles Times
“COMPELLING . . . A TAUT PSYCHOLOGICAL LEGAL THRILLER . . . This Tolkien heir paces the steps and missteps of the legal proceedings perfectly. . . . A solid debut.”
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Neatly interweaving the legal thriller with the psychological novel of suspense, Mr. Tolkien has created a trial novel abounding with intrigue, distrust, and anger. Fast-paced and with suspense to spare, his debut shows admirable skill and depth and has a conclusion as surprising as it is satisfying.”
–The Dallas Morning News