Cover image for Final witness : a novel
Title:
Final witness : a novel
Author:
Tolkien, Simon, 1959-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
283 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780375508820
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Summary

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. "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." --Booklist(starred review) "The book is fast-paced and crisply plotted, with Tolkien elegantly piecing together the different perspectives and introducing unexpected twists." --Publishers Weekly "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 ofThe Lord of the Ringsis bound to create a stir with this debut novel." --Library Journal 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.


Reviews 3

Booklist 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. At the center is Thomas Robinson, the 16-year-old son of British defense minister Sir Peter Robinson and his wife, Lady Anne. Mother and son had always been close, having remained at their country home while Sir Peter attended to business matters in London with the aid of his personal assistant, Greta Grahame. Early on, readers learn that Lady Anne was murdered and Thomas was a witness, although he was hiding at the time. Months later, the two malefactors return to find Thomas, for they somehow learn that he was present during their crime, and in the process, they implicate Greta as a coconspirator. Convinced that his father's ever-present personal assistant--who eventually marries the widowed Sir Peter--was behind the death of his beloved mother, Thomas takes it upon himself to prove it. His obsession with Greta causes an even deeper rift with his father, who already sees his son as a sniveling, dreamy-eyed romantic rather than the reasoned, cool man he wishes Thomas to be. Part English cozy, part family saga, part courtroom drama, this genre-bending work of fiction is touching and enchanting. --Mary Frances Wilkens


Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

With an easily recognizable surname, a formidable Oxford education, and a successful career as a London barrister, the grandson of the author of Lord of the Rings is bound to create a stir with this debut novel. Sir Peter Richardson has it all: a country house, a promising career in government as the British minister for defense, and a young, bright, and very ambitious personal assistant, Greta Grahame. Sir Peter's fatal flaw is that he neglects his wife and young son, Thomas, while focusing on his job and his personal assistant. Greta is from the working class, and Lady Anne resents her as much as Greta envies Lady Anne's finery, social position, and husband. Soon, there is a break-in at House of the Four Winds, and the intruders kill Lady Anne while Thomas watches from a nearby hiding place. Meanwhile, Greta seizes the opportunity to become the next Lady Richardson. Still grieving for his mother and certain of Greta's involvement in her death, Thomas convinces the police to pursue the case and does a bit of sleuthing on his own. 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 for popular fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/02.]-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 jaw. I was here too but hidden in a secret place behind the great bookcase at the top of the stairs. It was made for Catholic priests to hide in when the Protestants were searching for them hundreds of years ago. I hid there but my mother didn't. She couldn't because there was not enough time. That's why she died. The men didn't see me, but I saw the man with the scar through the little spy hole in the bookcase. He was bending down over my mother, and I saw him when he got to his feet with something gold in his hand. I remember his face more clearly than any face I've ever seen, although I only saw him for a second or two. It's like my memory took a photograph. Small, dark eyes, thin, bloodless lips and a thick scar that ran down from behind his jaw into his strong bull neck. You could see the scar because he had his black hair in a ponytail. I'd seen the man before. He was with Greta in London. It was six weeks before he killed my mother. I only saw him from behind, but I know it was him. He had the same ponytail and the scar. Yesterday evening at about seven o'clock I saw this man again. For a third time. Jane Martin goes to the town hall in Flyte on Wednesday evenings for the Women's Institute, and so I was alone in the dining room eating my dinner. There are windows looking out to the front and toward the lane on the north side of the house. They were all open. I think I was listening to the sea and remembering things like I sometimes do. I don't suppose I would have heard them come if the television had been on, but I felt that something was wrong as soon as I heard the car pull up in the lane. We use the lane to go down to the beach, but nobody else does. It's too far out of town and I wasn't expecting any visitors. They came through the door in the north wall just like they did on the night my mother died. They must have had a key. I saw them coming down the lawn to the front door. They were moving quickly, and there was no time for me to get upstairs to the hiding place behind the books where I'd hid before. I ran instead to the old black bench, which is beside the door going from the dining room into the hall. It has a seat that opens up, and I got in there. There are carvings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the front, and you can see out through the holes in their eyes. When I was small, I used to climb in there when I played hide-and-seek with my mother and Aunt Jane, but now I didn't fit very well and I was frightened, very frightened. The police have installed a panic button in the house, and I pressed that before I got in the bench. It's connected to Carmouth Police Station and makes them come when I need them. I was in the bench when they came in through the front door. There were two of them and they used a key. I'm sure of that. The one with the scar was in charge, but he didn't have his hair in a ponytail this time. He wore it long so I couldn't see the scar. He called the other man Lonny. They wore leather jackets and jeans, and Lonny was wearing a baseball cap. He was overweight and looked like a boxer. I'd never seen Lonny before. I'd say they were both in their thirties, but they could have been older. They looked around the rooms downstairs for a while, but they didn't touch anything and they had gloves on. Then the one with the scar said, "Lonny, watch the fucking road while I go upstairs. The kid's behind that bookcase where he was before. Greta told me how it works." Lonny came and stood really close to where I was, but I couldn't see him because he was to the side of me, and the man with the scar went upstairs. It was really hard not moving, and I tried to hold my breath. That made it worse, and I thought Lonny would hear my heart beating. It sounded so loud to me. About a minute later the man with the scar was back and I could hear anger in his voice, like he was getting ready to do something really bad. He wasn't shouting though; it was almost as if he was talking through his teeth. And I can't remember the exact words he used. All I can do is give the gist of them. "Fucking kid's in here somewhere," he said. "Look, he was halfway through eating when we got here. He can't have gone far." "Want me to turn the gaff over, do you, Rosie? I'll find him for you." I could hear the eagerness in Lonny's voice, like he really wanted to break something. "No, I fucking don't. I don't want you to touch anything, you moron. Just keep a fucking watch and leave it to me. And don't call me that again." The fat man went to stand by the front door. It was half open. "Lonny the loser," said the man with the scar. "He's a fucking loser, isn't he, Thomas?" I couldn't see him but he wasn't far, and I almost answered because he said my name so suddenly and naturally, but I bit my tongue instead. "I'm sorry about your mother, Thomas. Really I am. And I promise you that you'll be fine. Scout's honor, Thomas. Scout's honor. All we want is to take you on a little holiday. That's all. Until this trial is over and done with. Somewhere nice and sunny with plenty of foreign girls. Topless beaches. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Thomas? So why don't you be a good boy and come out and we can get acquainted." I could hear him moving about opening doors and cupboards all the time he was talking in this mock friendly voice he'd put on, but now there was a pause. When he spoke again, the hard edge was back in his voice. "Too scared to come out, are you, boy? Too fucking scared. Want to play fucking games with me, do you, you little runt?" He stopped suddenly, his voice cut off by the sound of the siren, and a second later they ran out the front door. They must have waited in the lane until I buzzed the police in through the front gate and then driven away without anyone seeing them. I would recognize both these men again, and I would also recognize the voice of the man with the scar. It was soft and he said the bad words slowly, like he enjoyed saying them over and over again. I think he would have killed me if he'd found me. I really think he would. Like I said before, I have tried my best to give the gist of what the men said when they were in the house, but I can't remember all their exact words. However, I am sure about the names they called each other and I know that the man with the scar said about the hiding place that "Greta told me how it works." When I went upstairs with the police officer afterward, the door in the bookcase was standing half open. I confirm that I am still willing to attend court and give evidence for the prosecution in the trial of my stepmother, Greta Robinson. Excerpted from Final Witness by Simon Tolkien All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.