"The Mystery Gazette". February 19, 2010. Harriet Klausner

In 1959 in London Stephen Cade is on trial for murdering his famous war hero and Oxford historian father. The case is obvious as the evidence condemns Stephen. He and his father were estranged for a long time and he only goes to see him when his dad cuts him out of his will. Soon after they argue, the older Cade is shot to death by a gun with the younger Cade’s fingerprints on it. He is convicted rather quickly and sentenced to die. Oxford and Midland CID Police Detective Inspector William Trave finds the evidence too overwhelming for someone as intelligent as Stephen is. The prosecutor tells him to let it go as this was a crime of passion not intelligence. Unable to ignore his gut as five other people were in the crime scene mansion on that fatal night with tales that fail to match then and in 1944, Trave finds ties to Normandy where the famous late famous war hero apparently was part of an incident that left French civilians dead. This is a super historical police procedural that brings to life England during the Cold War as Trave finds one revelation after another tying 1959 to 1944. The story line is fast-paced throughout although the audience figures out who the culprit is well before the cop does. Fans will enjoy Simon Tolkien’s entertaining whodunit as the investigation brings out a sort of historiographic feel to the plot with readers observing how the English in 1959 recall Normandy in 1944.

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Library Journal

This second novel (after The Final Witness) by J.R.R. Tolkien's grandson is a legal thriller, World War II historical novel, and Da Vinci Code treasure hunt all rolled into one. Stephen Cade, son of a famed historian and war hero, is quickly convicted and sentenced to death for his father's murder, based on circumstantial evidence. Detective Bill Tave's instincts tell him there is more to the story, and right he is. There were five others in the Cade mansion that night, some of whom had a clear interest in whether the old professor lived or died. VERDICT This intricate story, which includes a distant father, the hunt for a religious artifact, and much detail about British society and its justice system, is a bit overambitious. However, it moves quickly, and the motives of the characters provide energy and drive to what turns out to be an absorbing 1950s-era mystery. Should appeal to fans of legal thrillers and British procedurals and such authors as Charles Todd.—Nancy Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH

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Booklist *Starred Review*, January 15 2010. Connie Fletcher.

The promotional material for former British criminal barrister Tolkien’s second novel (the first, The Final Witness, was published in 2002) shamelessly plays up the fact that the author is the grandson of J. R. R. Tolkien. Enough of this literary-pedigree nonsense. As Tolkien shows in both his mysteries, he does not need to have his DNA trumpeted; he is a first-rate writer in his own right. His latest thriller moves from a horrific crime perpetrated on a French family by two British soldiers during World War II and then straight into 1959, with the opening of a trial at the Old Bailey. Tolkien provides the kind of caustic portraits of judges and barristers and knowledge of the innermost cells of the Old Bailey that the late John Mortimer, also a barrister, delighted readers with in the Rumpole series. On trial is 22-year-old Stephen Cade, accused of shooting his estranged father in the head. The father was a war hero and then a well-heeled university professor. The son had motive: the father had just written him out of his will and denied him a requested sum of money. He had opportunity: he was, apparently, and by his own admission, with his father in his library. And his prints were on the gun that was found near the body. But something seems off to the officer in charge of the case. Detective Inspector William Trave of the Oxford CID uses the window of opportunity between trial and sentencing to trace the locked-room mystery back to its origins in France. Written with great surety and absolutely compelling.

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Book Reporter Review. Written by Ray Palen

Simon Tolkien shares a literary lineage passed on from his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, creator of the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy, and his father, Christopher Tolkien, who continued his own father’s Middle Earth saga with several additional volumes. The youngest Tolkien has bravely carved out his own literary path by writing novels not based in fantasy worlds or featuring mythical creatures, but that deal with very human subjects involved in thrilling legal dramas and peril. 

With his second novel, Tolkien has built upon the acclaim he received from his debut, FINAL WITNESS. The prologue of THE INHERITANCE takes place in the French region of Normandy in 1945 during the height of World War II. It is there where we witness three British officers ravaging a French family and their servants, all in the guise of obtaining a priceless book that they learned was kept in their home. After murdering the family in cold blood and burning their house to the ground, the officers ensure that their heinous acts are blamed on the Nazis who had been harboring themselves inside the house. 

The story then turns to the year 1959 and opens with the murder of a famed Oxford historian named Colonel Cade. The crime itself is not as shocking as the fact that his eldest son, Stephen, has been arrested and charged with the slaying. Stephen claims innocence throughout and insists he discovered his father’s body. Readers will immediately be aware of the infamous backstory involving the three British soldiers, the leader of whom was none other than Colonel Cade. Stephen had been estranged from the Colonel after he found out about his part in the murderous cover-up. But was that enough to make him want to take his own father’s life? 

Tolkien parades a host of potential suspects, along with numerous motives and double-crosses thrown in, to keep the plot moving and the reader guessing. It turns out that the book Colonel Cade and his two comrades - Ritter and Carson - took from the house was the Codex of Marjean. This priceless artifact, when properly decoded, was purported to give the location of one of the rarest religious pieces in history -the Cross of St. Peter. With the introduction of each backstory and plot element, the motives for murder become far more complex than a simple court case can uncover. 

While Stephen is being set up nicely by British prosecutor Thompson, an inspector by the name of Trave makes it his mission to prove Stephen’s innocence by conducting his own investigation. Trave quickly discovers that the murder could have risen out of a simple case of family jealousy - Stephen was in line to inherit the Codex of Marjean from his father, and obviously this would not sit well with younger brother Silas. The murderer could also have been another treasure hunter vying for the priceless artifact with dreams of using it to find the Cross of St. Peter. Lastly, it could have been a case of straightforward revenge against Colonel Cade for the murder of the innocent French family back in 1945. 

While the straight narrative of the court case continues to depict the railroading of Stephen Cade for his father’s murder, Tolkien deftly uncovers other character lines that cloud things considerably and make it difficult to decipher who the actual murderer is. All Inspector Trave knows is that Stephen is about to be found guilty and will summarily be hanged not long after the inevitable sentence is handed down. It is a literal race against the clock as Trave digs deeper into the dark past of the Colonel and finds that all paths lead to the small town in France where there are still many buried secrets to be uncovered. 

One critic called Simon Tolkien’s first novel “half Christie and half Grisham.” With THE INHERITANCE, I can concur with half of that assertion. It definitely has the feel of a classic Agatha Christie, and I found a lot of similarity to her novel/play WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Like a traditional Christie play, THE INHERITANCE is written in three acts, and the denouement revealed in the final act will definitely stun even the more experienced mystery reader. Combining elements of a classic whodunit with those of a legal thriller and the currently popular historical-based fiction, Tolkien has created a winner of a novel that succeeds on all levels and makes for an exciting read.

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Richmond Times Despatch. April 25, 2010. Jay Strafford

Wartime atrocities always appall, even those such as My Lai and Abu Ghraib, which may have been born of a terribly misguided notion of duty. But when they're driven by greed, they're especially horrific. 

They can make for a great read, though, as Simon Tolkien proves in The Inheritance (336 pages, Minotaur Books, $24.99). 

For many years, Tolkien - the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien of "Lord of the Rings" fame - avoided writing, perhaps afraid that he could not live up to his grandfather's reputation. Seven years ago, his first novel, "Final Witness," brought him acclaim. And "The Inheritance" is even better. 

In 1944, three British soldiers in Normandy murder two couples in their search for a valuable, centuries-old book that their leader, Col. John Cade, believes may lead him to a priceless holy relic. 

Flash-forward to 1959, when Cade, a rich, retired university professor, is shot to death in his home, Moreton Manor. The fingerprints of his younger son, Stephen, are found not only on the gun but also on a key to the room. Stephen is arrested and put on trial for his life. 

But there were five people in the house that night in addition to the victim and the suspect. Also present were Silas Cade, Stephen's older, adoptive brother; Reginald Ritter, one of Cade's subordinates in the Normandy killings; Ritter's French wife, Jeanne; Sasha Vigne, the professor's research assistant; and Mary Martin, Stephen's actress girlfriend. 

Motives abound as the story spins out, but the authorities have fixated on the elder Cade's intention to disinherit his two sons. As the trial proceeds in London's Old Bailey, the detective inspector who arrested Stephen, William Trave, begins to doubt his guilt and sets out to further investigate the case. 

Expertly paced - the suspense builds to nearly unbearable levels - and filled with fascinating characters, "The Inheritance" also showcases Tolkien's spare, graceful prose - and his moral fervor. He spins a gripping story, but there's more to "The Inheritance" than smarts and skill. It's also a meditation on the death penalty, and Tolkien leaves no doubt that he's an ardent opponent. 

A deft combination of Agatha Christie manor-house whodunit, Erle Stanley Gardner courtroom drama and Dan Brown thriller, "The Inheritance" is nonetheless unique to its creator. And Tolkien, with this compelling read, proves himself worthy - and then some - of his literary pedigree.

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Book Pleasures. April 30. Reviewed by Mary Lignor.

A very intricate English mystery of deceit and treachery that includes a very interesting puzzle with origins that go back to Christ's death on the cross. 

The story begins in 1944 Normandy during World War II when Colonel Cade and two of his men are looking for a book that describes the place where they will find the Cross of St. Peter, a historical religious relic that was made from the original wood of the cross that Christ was crucified on and later embedded with precious stones. They find the book but the place where it was taken from was burned to the ground and they had to leave France without ever looking for the cross. 

The story then jumps ahead to 1959. Colonel Cade, now a private citizen, and a noted historian from Oxford College is found dead in his study. His youngest son, Stephen is arrested for the murder as all the evidence points to him. The Colonel has decided to turn his estate into a museum to display old historical manuscripts and to disinherit his two sons, Stephen a natural son and Silas, who was adopted. Stephen had lived away from his family for many years but, had recently come home when he was told by his brother that there would be no inheritance for either of them. It so happens that when he came home to speak with his father that was the night that his father died. There were others in the manor house that night and they each have a story to tell. It is revealed that Colonel Cade and his men, one of which now lives in the manor house with his wife, were involved in a search for the Cross of St. Peter during the war. This group in the manor is really a motley bunch. They include Ritter the former soldier and his wife; Sasha who was helping Cade to catalog his manuscripts; Silas the adopted son who is an amateur photographer; and Mary Martin who is Stephen's girl. These people all have secrets in their past that have to do with the Cross. Also, Detective Inspector Trave who investigated the crime and has taken a liking to Stephen and is trying to delay the trial so he can look for more evidence against someone else. 

This book is an excellent family drama/thriller. A psychological mystery that includes an excellent puzzle on how to find this famous religious relic that has been lost for ages. (A bit like the DaVinci Code but, different) You have a World War II story, plus a courtroom drama that is sometimes a bit tedious and a historical riddle to solve. A wonderful story of allegiance and/or betrayal. An excellent read.

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New York Times

Simon Tolkien’s grandfather is J. R. R., but his new novel owes more to Agatha Christie - and Dan Brown. The setup: five people are at Moreton Manor the night Professor John Cade is shot dead. His estranged son Stephen is on trial for the murder, but Detective Inspector William Trave of the Oxford police can’t quite shake the feeling that the wrong man is in the dock. Stephen is hardly the only person who might have wanted Professor Cade dead - there’s his brother, Silas, for starters, who was also about to be cut out of his father’s will. And what of the ancient book - the Marjean codex - that Cade forcibly took from the owners of a French chateau in the book’s prologue? Might it really lead to St. Peter’s cross - “made from a fragment of the true cross on which Our Lord suffered” - as Sasha Vigne, Cade’s mysterious personal assistant, who was also in the house that night, believes?

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

Simon Tolkien is the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien and, while there are no elves or dwarves in these pages, there is on display a narrative skill that the author of “The Lord of the Rings” would surely have recognized and admired. I picked the book up one night and read the first 60 pages in no time flat. Had it not been so late and I so tired, I would have probably continued reading until dawn. As it was, I picked it up again first thing the next morning – and there went that day: no coffee, no breakfast, no lunch. I didn’t even get out of bed until I had finished and had to get ready to go out to dinner.