Summary and book reviews of Final Witness by Simon Tolkien

Final Witness

by Simon Tolkien

Final Witness
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2002, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2004, 320 pages

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Book Summary

The grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien makes a thrilling debut as a novelist in this suspenseful courtroom drama that will have you guessing to the very end.

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 giving evidence for the defense at her trial. He will be the final witness.

Author Simon Tolkien successfully combines legal suspense and psychological tension in this sharply etched portrait of four people whose lives are changed by a murder. Alternating between the trial in 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, most notably, the complexity of family relations.

Who is telling the truth—the new wife or the bereaved son? What will Sir Peter tell the court? With tantalizing ambiguity, Tolkien keeps readers guessing about the true motivations of these characters until the final witness.


UK Title : The Stepmother.


Author's Note



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. I always unconsciously felt that I would be measured against my grandfather’s huge achievement, and this kept me away from fiction for a very long time.

I have always loved The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and my grandfather’s mastery of the art of storytelling remains an inspiration to me, but my novel is set in the world of criminal law—obviously an entirely different realm from my grandfather’s work. A courtroom is an extraordinary place. Witnesses often tell their own stories in the most dramatic fashion. My experiences as a criminal barrister in London have provided me with many ideas for stories, a wide experience of human nature, and an insider’s knowledge of the courts, which means I can make my fiction true to life.

Chapter 1

My name is Thomas Robinson. I am sixteen years old. Today is Thursday, the sixth of July, and I am making this statement to Detective Sergeant Hearns of the Ipswich Police. I have made two statements already in these proceedings. Everything that I say is true to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I make this statement knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have willfully stated anything which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.

I live in the House of the Four Winds, which is on the outskirts of the town of Flyte on the coast of Suffolk. The only other person who lives here now is the housekeeper, Jane Martin, who looked after me when I was a boy. My father never comes to visit me anymore.

My mother was killed in this house on the thirty-first of May last year. I described everything that happened in my first two statements. Two men came and murdered her. One of them had a ponytail and a scar behind his...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Final Witness is efficiently rendered stuff, but there'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.

Publishers Weekly

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....Still, this is a promising first effort from Tolkien

Library Journal

Tolkien’s skill as a storyteller is worthy of notice in this taut, well-paced legal thriller. The excellent courtroom drama and well-drawn, believable characters make this a good choice. . . . With an easily recognizable surname, a formidable Oxford education, and a successful career as a London barrister, the grandson of the author of The Lord of the Rings is bound to create a stir with this debut novel.

Booklist - Mary Frances Wilkens

Starred Review. Don’t let the author’s last name confuse you, for there are no Hobbits in this debut novel by the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, 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.

Reader Reviews

ccarpe3

Final Witness has the slightly awkward tone of a first novel, the situation is cliched, and both the main characters and potentially intriguing secondary characters are insufficiently developed. Nonetheless, I was sufficiently intrigued by it that I...   Read More

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