The Inheritance is a thriller novel by Simon Tolkien,
grandson of J.R.R.Tolkien, author of The Lord of the
As a former barrister, Simon used his knowledge of the
British legal system to come up with a plot that is more in
tune with the writings of Agatha Christie (murder in a locked
room) and John Mortimer's Rumpole (courtroom scenes at the
Old Bailey accurately but cynically portrayed).
There is an underlying "quest" theme in this book, but it is
a long way away from being "the thinking man's DaVinci Code"
(as one United States newspaper dubbed it).
Having caught up recently on a few of Jo Nesbo's Finnish
mysteries (rather too wordy and complicated with their
characters for me) I really enjoyed turning to this easier
The story opens with a flashback to World War 2 when some
troops committed a massacre looking for a priceless relic and
then it advances to 1959. At that time convicts sentenced to
hang for murder were offered but a flimsy chance of appeal by
the British justice system and had precious little time to
prove innocence before the sentence was carried out.
An eminent art historian had been found dead in his study,
with all the evidence pointing to his son, Stephen.
He was the last person seen with his father, had fingerprints
on the murder weapon, and was about to be disinherited in his
father's will. So Stephen is tried and convicted, thanks to a
smart prosecutor and a testy judge.
There is much suspense when the principal detective has
second thoughts about the case and sets off urgently to
France as the only way to trace the origins of the mystery.
It is one seen to be steeped in memories, family tensions,
betrayal and revenge - all quite deftly written.
• Geoff Adams is a former ODT