A compelling thriller laced with Simon Tolkien’s signature writing style.
It’s September of 1940. France has fallen and London is being bombed day and night. Almost single-handedly Winston Churchill maintains the country’s morale. Britain’s fate hangs in the balance and the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Channel are desperate for anything that could give them an edge.
Albert Morrison, ex-chief of MI6, is pushed over the banister outside his London apartment. He falls to his death at the feet of his daughter, Ava, but it is too dark for her to see the attacker before he escapes. Two Scotland Yard detectives attend the crime scene: Inspector Quaid and his junior assistant, Detective Trave. Quaid is convinced that this is a simple open-and-shut case involving a family dispute, but Trave is not so sure. Following a mysterious note in the dead man’s pocket, Trave discovers that Morrison was visited by Alec Thorn, deputy head of MI6, on the day of his death. Could Thorn—who is clearly carrying a flame for Morrison’s daughter—be involved in a plot to betray his country that Morrison tried to halt, and if so, can Trave stop it in time in this gripping and intelligent thriller?
Being the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, I think people expect a lot from Simon Tolkien. Even though he writes a completely different genre, just like his grandfather, Tolkien is gifted at creating a novel with a vivid atmosphere and a complex plot. This is the third in the Inspector Trave series, but it’s a prequel to the first two novels. Even though this is my first Trave novel, I didn’t feel lost or feel like I had started in the middle of the series.
I haven’t read a lot of novels centered around World War II and I’ve always felt oddly disconnected to the ones that I have read. I think it’s rare to find an author who can transport you to a period of time you have no experience with and make you feel like you’re living through it, but Tolkien is able to do this so easily. Through his writing, I felt like I was living in London during the 1940’s, cowering in subways to avoid the air strikes, watching buildings explode and my neighbours die, and moving through the wreckage of London. The whole novel is written so well.
The story itself is very creative. I would classify this book completely as a thriller, not a murder mystery because the person who committed the murder is easily guessed from the beginning and confirmed about halfway through. Trave and his supporting cast are all well-developed and interesting characters. The relationships between the characters is also interesting to read about and I loved how Ava changed from the beginning to the end.
This is a very fast paced novel. Even though the plot isn’t remarkably original, it’s an excellent thriller and I am highly recommending it.
- Simon Tolkien: JRR Tolkien’s grandson admits Lord of the Rings trauma (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Being Tolkien’s grandson blocked my writing …’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Simon Tolkien: Lord of the Rings films were ‘like a juggernaut that tore my family apart’ (thisismoney.co.uk)