The King of Diamonds

Written by Simon Tolkien
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

In 1958 David Swain was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s lover.  Although the evidence against Swain was overwhelming, Inspector Trave of the Oxford police was uncomfortable with the verdict.  Two years later, on the night Swain escapes from prison, Swain’s ex-girlfriend Katya is found murdered.  Again, the evidence points to Swain, but Trave is suspicious of Osman, Katya’s uncle, a wealthy Dutch immigrant who made his fortune on diamonds in World War II.  The fact that Trave’s estranged wife is now sleeping with Osman makes the investigation seem, to his fellow officers, to be about more than Katya’s murder.

The reader trusts Trave’s suspicions, but some of his early decisions in the investigation are frustratingly stupid.  Swain doesn’t help his case, doing things that make him look guilty.  Osman is a smooth but creepy suspect, and Osman’s brother-in-law is fearsome.  Inspector Macrae, newly transferred to Oxford, seeks revenge on Trave for making him look bad in an investigation years ago.  Macrae would like nothing better than to take this case from Trave and have Swain hang.

This is a gripping read with the search for evidence the driving force of the story.  For even when we know who committed the crimes, we know that knowledge is not enough.  There must be proof in order to save Swain from hanging. The evidence must exist, but gathering it is a life-endangering activity.  Exciting and intense, this story resolves all conflicts but one.  Perhaps we will see Trave in another thriller in the near future.