Review: The King of Diamonds by Simon Tolkien

The King of Diamonds is a genuine five star book and a fascinating piece of crime fiction from Simon Tolkien. Simon is not one of those authors who publish a new book every two months: He dedicates a lot of time and thinking to bake his ideas into rich storylines and gives his characters such level of depth in which I have only seen in few other authors’ books.

Since 1994, he has been a barrister in London, where he lives with his wife and their two children. His first novel, The Stepmother (published as Final Witness in the United States), was published in 2002. His second work, The Inheritance, was published in 2010, and his third, The King of Diamonds, in 2011. This 2011 novel is a follow-up to The Inheritance, and tells the story of passion, relationship challenges and the quest for justice.

The story begins in 1958 at the Old Bailey in London, where David Swain stands on trial for the murder of Ethan Mendel, the lover of his girlfriend, Katya Osman. Oxford Detective Inspector William Trave testifies, which is a main reason Swain is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Although he did his duty, something about the case annoys Trave.

It’s 1960 now and Trave’s marriage to Vanessa is falling apart. At the same time Katya’s diamond dealer paternal Uncle Titus is having an affair with Vanessa. In the dead of one night, David escapes from prison, and that same night Katya is found murdered in her uncle’s home, Blackwater Hall.

Inspector Trave heads the manhunt for David but Trave’s suspicions lead him to Katya’s uncle Titus and his sinister brother-in-law, Franz Claes. Once David is captured and put on trial for his life, Trave is willing to risk everything that is dear to him—professionally and personally—to pursue his obsessive belief in Osman’s guilt.

I fell glad I picked this book for review as this is a sophisticated mystery layered with dark secrets from the past, and slow-burning suspense. Simon Tolkien has once again written a gripping and nuanced thriller laced with historical details: Los Angeles Times calls Tolkien’s style “half Christie and half Grisham”. Well, I can’t agree more. Great plot, elegant writing style and interesting characters make The Kinf of Diamonds a must read. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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