The Secret Crown, cover

The murder of King Ludwig II and cover-up is the basis for Chris Kuzneski’s fast paced thriller. Will the good guys find the treasure and the historical truth first?

The Secret Crown opens with a Prologue that is set in Bavaria on 13 June 1886. It tracks an assassin as he follows King Ludwig II of Bavaria who had just been deposed as monarch due to alleged insanity. Ludwig was a popular king but his lifestyle and excessive building led to near-bankruptcy and accusations of madness. The spendthrift ways and artistic leanings of the Swan King, as he was known, led to him being deposed. Now the assassin had to get him into talk and then kill him without leaving evidence as to why or how.

Chase, Battles and Treasure Hunt through Bavaria

The story jumps forward to modern day Germany and the Bavarian Alps where a hunter finds a hidden bunker by falling through the roof, unfortunately he does not get to tell the tale as the boar he has just shot kills him.

Jonathon Payne and David Jones, his former colleague in the US special force, the MANIACS, are called in by a friend who has taken possession of the bunker site. The friend, Kaiser, has helped Jones and Payne out in previous adventures but his smuggling and other business interests are outside the law.

At first, they think the bunker may house Nazi treasures looted during the Second World War. However, the crates are marked with a black swan, the sign of King Ludwig, the Swan King. Although some crates contain important paintings that suggest Nazi loot, the rest contain papers. Payne and Jones bring in a highly regarded historian friend with whom they had worked on a previous treasure hunt. Some of the documents relate to the historian’s grandfather and they hope closer examination will explain what they have found.

Unfortunately, Kaiser’s arch rival gets wind that Kaiser is involved in something unusual but does not know what or why. A battle breaks out around the bunker and the chase is on. The story moves around Bavaria as the good guys try to protect what they have found and get it somewhere safe to study. The battle continues across Germany as they follow the trail suggested by the documents.

As in many thrillers, Payne and Jones are typical battle-hardened, wise-cracking ex-military characters. They are rather too good to be true as they are apparently expert in so many weapons and aspects of military action. They are also largely infallible and one quickly resolves any bad situations for the other. Their constant wise-cracking might work in film but it can be rather tiresome in print, especially as it is not that witty.

Fast-paced and Interesting Story Line

The story line is interesting, based as it is, on an intriguing real life character in King Ludwig II of Bavaria. There is a genuine mystery about the political machinations of his removal from power and death. All of which provides a historical backdrop to The Secret Crown.

The story moves along at a good pace but all feels rather implausible that it could take place in modern day Germany. However if the reader can suspend disbelief then The Secret Crown will satisfactorily while away a journey or a wet weekend, more probably just an afternoon.

Chris Kuzneski is the best-selling author of Sign of the Cross and other titles including The Prophecy and The Lost Throne.

The Secret Crown (2010, ISBN: 978-0-141-04432-3) by Chris Kuzneski is published in paperback by Penguin at £6.99.


First appeared on Suite101


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