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Book Review – The King of Diamonds

Synopsis:  Its 1960, and David Swain is two years into his life sentence for murdering the lover of his ex-girlfriend, Katya Osman. In the dead of night, David escapes from prison, and that same night Katya is found murdered in her uncles home, Blackwater Hall.

Inspector Trave of the Oxford Police, last seen in The Inheritance, heads the manhunt for David, whom he first brought to justice two years earlier. But Traves suspicions lead him to Katyas uncle Titus Osman, a rich diamond dealer, and his sinister brother-in-law, Franz Claes, who has gone to great lengths to hide his former ties with the Nazis. However, Traves motives are suspect – Osman is having an affair with Traves estranged wife, Vanessa, and a newcomer to the Oxford Police, Inspector Macrae, is eager to exploit Trave’s weaknesses to further his own ambition.  Caught up in his superiors rivalry, Trave’s young assistant, Adam Clayton, finds himself uncertain who is right and which side to choose. Once David is captured and put on trial for his life, Trave is willing to risk everything that is dear to himprofessionally and personallyto pursue his obsessive belief in Osmans guilt.

First Line:  “And so, Mr. Swain, everybody might be guilty of this crime.  Everybody except you?  Is that right?

Random Quote:  “Gripping the gun in his hand, David turned away from the lake, heading into the woods.  He picked his way carefully, but it wasn’t long before he came out into the open and paused, looking across the lawn toward the side of the house.”

ReviewSimon Tolkien is the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien (which must be a nightmare in a way if you’re an author, too).  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about his book.

The King of Diamonds is a very British, very Gothic, but nuanced thriller – more Patricia Highsmith than Agatha Christie for sure.  There are shades of Jane Eyre here, too – or of any other tale that involves someone locked in an attic with an evil caretaker.  This time that someone ends up dead.

I liked this book for all those elements – add in Nazis, a jealous and vengeful lover, and the ickiest weirdest family ever and you’ve got a fun read.
Oxfordshire wheatfieldsOxforshire wheat fields – Image by net_efekt via Flickr
This book also has two things that I love – a sense of place and a sense of its place in time.  Set in the late fifties/early sixties in Oxfordshire, you can feel everything poised on the precipice of change.  It’s easy to imagine linoleum floors in the kitchen, a Sunday roast in the oven.

My one criticism is that things move just a tad too slow in the beginning.  While this feels right for the setting and time, it makes it a little more difficult to engage as a reader.  That said it was great fun.

FTC Disclosure:  Copy provided by the publisher for review


Reading Challenges:  British Books Challenge, Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge

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