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Simon Tolkien   Final Witness  
Simon Tolkien  
Read an Interview with Simon Tolkien

Read an Excerpt from Final Witness

 

On the back of the book jacket for Final Witness, there is a note from Simon Tolkien that reads, in part: "Many people may think that being related to a famous writer would make it easier to become a writer yourself, but I have found the opposite to be true… This kept me away from fiction for a very long time." So, he does feel the pressure of being the grandson J.R.R. Tolkien! One had to wonder. But now, in an ingenious publishing move, the thought (and comparison) is completely banished from your mind before you even open Final Witness.

This gesture, combined with the explanation of Tolkien's motivation for pursuing writing (also described in the aforementioned note), are well-measured. Not even the most active of imaginations could tie Final Witness to Lord of the Rings. Final Witness is set in an entirely different realm— the world of criminal law. And Tolkien's own experiences as a criminal barrister in London provided him with wide-ranging, believable ideas for stories, all based on his insider's knowledge of human nature and the courts.

The set-up is this: one summer night, two men break into an isolated manor house and kill Lady Anne Robinson. Her son, Thomas, convinces the police that his father's beautiful personal assistant sent the killers, but Thomas is known for his overactive imagination, and he has reasons to lie. Thomas's father, Sir Peter Robinson, the British minister of defense, refuses to believe his son. Instead, he marries (!) his assistant, Greta Grahame, and will be the final witness at her trial.

Alternating between London's Central Criminal Court and private moments among the characters, Tolkien expertly describes the art of the trial, the clash between Britain's social classes, and the complexity of family relations.

Who is telling the truth-the new wife or the bereaved son? And what will Sir Peter tell the court? Tolkien keeps you guessing until the very final witness. Booklist gave Final Witness a starred review, saying, "Don't let the author's last name confuse you, for there are no Hobbits in this debut novel… only a wonderful story of family, relationships, and suspense… Part English cozy, part family saga, part courtroom drama, this genre-bending work of fiction is touching and enchanting." Well said.

—Allison Heilborn

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  Photo credit: Roderick Field

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