Latest-generation Tolkien picks crime-thriller genre

The Inheritance is a thriller novel by Simon Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R.Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.The Inheritance <br> <b> Simon Tolkein </b> <br> <i> Harper

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 read.

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 editor.