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The Ludwig Conspiracy: A Historical Thriller…
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The Ludwig Conspiracy: A Historical Thriller

by Oliver Pötzsch

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Part thriller, part mystery, part historical fiction, and with some romance thrown in, this book has something for almost everyone. When an antiquarian bookseller finds a small chest containing Theodor Marot's cryptic diary, he teams up with an art detective to solve the mystery of King Ludwig II of Bavaria's death. Tension builds as they race from one castle to another in search of the key to the diary's code. A fun book based upon real events which still haven't been verified to this day. ( )
  milibrarian | Apr 15, 2014 |
I like historical novels, especially ones that are well researched. From somewhere I hears a quote that if you want to teach history, tell the story. That happens here, along with a current thriller consisting of a chase for a diary written in shorthand and code. The historical period is King Ludwig II before the World Wars, and his deposition and death in 1886. Beyond posters for his most famous castle, Neuschwanstein, the model for Disney's Cinderella'a castle, the Mad King of Bavaria is unknown in America today. ( )
  susanbeamon | Feb 25, 2014 |
The encoded memoir of Theodor Marot, a confidant of King Ludwig II, finds its way into the possession of Steven Lukas, an antiquarian book dealer. It soon becomes obvious that other people want the book as well, presumably because of the information it contains about the final days in the life of Ludwig who died under mysterious circumstances in 1886. Steven finds himself partnering with an art detective, Sara Lengfeld, to investigate each of Ludwig’s three famous castles for clues to crack the book’s code as several mysterious and dangerous men pursue them.

I had difficulty finishing this book because its pace is so slow and the plot so repetitive: Steven reads a part of the diary; he and Sara arrive at a castle and solve part of the code; they encounter bad guys but manage to escape; they move on to the next castle. Repeatedly bullets whiz by Steven or Theodor but do no damage, even when the weapon is fired by an expert. Countless times Steven sees someone who seems familiar but he can’t remember where he saw that person. There is also a great deal of plot manipulation because events move forward because of chance and coincidence. For example, just as Sara decides they need the help of someone “’who really knows his way around all this Ludwig stuff,’” she points “to an exit road that suddenly appeared before them in the darkness” and directs him to this expert who turns out to know someone who has access to the keys of the next castle. One man’s injury is described such that he won’t “’get far with that wound,’” but then it turns out to be “only a graze”? Another man is shot and bleeding profusely and having difficulty breathing so his death is imminent (“’I don’t think [he] can last much longer’”) but then he miraculously is conscious, moving and able to have an extended conversation. For the sake of suspense, characters keep secrets until the last possible moment.

There is a big reveal near the end of the book, but it is not really that great a secret. A perceptive reader will notice the too-obvious clues. In the first chapter, Steven has a visitor in his shop who makes a cryptic comment (“’The royal line is at stake’”) and shortly afterwards, Steven finds the memoir and immediately feels “a slight dizziness, and a strange, bitter smell as if something were left burning.” Those two clues are really all it takes to figure out the ending. It is only Steven who is too dense to put together the pieces of the puzzle.

Characterization is weak. Even Steven and Sara do no emerge as fully developed characters. He is an introvert who eschews modernity; she is an extrovert who embraces technology. Their conversation does not sound natural – perhaps the stiltedness is the result of the translation. Neither is their relationship shown as developing; one minute they (often identified not by name but as the book seller and the art detective) are exchanging caustic barbs and the next minute they are in love.

There are several references that seem anachronistic. The role of police in 1886 seems very modern; one gendarme even goes out for a cigarette. Would the term neurologist have been used in the 19th century? In 1886, would it have been possible to produce and distribute 30,000 pamphlets virtually overnight? Would someone in his/her memoirs write statements like, “My promise was to bind me until death and beyond” and “How was I to guess, at the time, that this girl would determine the fate of so many of us long after our deaths”? The memoirist is prescient?

This book certainly possesses the characteristics of the thriller genre and I can imagine it being made into a movie, but it is not my type of book. I want solid characterization, sophisticated plotting, and realistic events. That being said, the novel has inspired me to read some non-fiction about King Ludwig II. Undoubtedly, the author did extensive research, and for this he must be commended.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  Schatje | Sep 5, 2013 |
I really enjoy Oliver Potzsch’s historical mystery series about a 17th Century hangman and his family. So when I discovered the galley to his new historical thriller, I jumped at the chance to read it. It did not disappoint. So much so I stayed up too late reading it. I like the way he combines the present with the past, and fact with fiction. In fact, the Voltaire quote before the novel begins informs the whole novel, “History is the lie that is commonly agreed upon.”

The Ludwig Conspiracy is about the past and its repercussions for the present and the future. It is the story of a Munich rare book dealer, Steven Lukas, Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and the hunt for a diary and its secrets. Steven finds an encoded diary by a confidant of Mad King Ludwig, the one whose beautiful castles inspired Walt Disney and draw thousands of tourists every year. This diary may explain the mysterious death of Mad King Ludwig, but it comes with a lot of baggage, including people who will do anything to possess it, including murder.

The story begins with the torture and death of a professor who found an encoded diary by one of King Ludwig’s confidants. However the professor outsmarted his torturers and left it in a Munich antiquarian book shop. Its owner, Steven Lukas, discovers it, but as he begins to decode the diary he discovers how dangerous the past can be. He meets the beautiful art detective, Sara Lengfeld, who helps him in his journey to decipher this old text. It takes Steven’s 19th Century knowledge and Sara’s computer savvy to crack the code. Their journey takes them to Ludwig’s three famous castles searching for clues to crack the diary’s code. Every step of the way they have strange and scary people following them. They race to discover the clues that will unlock the diary without losing their lives.

I enjoyed the back and forth between the present and past. Not only did I get a contemporary page turner, I got a historical one as well. Potzsch makes good use of the history and legend of King Ludwig to come up with a thrilling story of how and why King Ludwig died and why his mysterious death continues to fascinate to this day. With one Poztsch novel down this year, I've got one to go - the next novel in the Hangman’s Daughter series, The Poisoned Pilgrim. And I can't wait. ( )
  kasey007 | Jul 31, 2013 |
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Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When an encoded diary about Ludwig, the fairytale king of Bavaria who was declared insane and died mysteriously soon thereafter, falls into his hands, rare book dealer Steven Lukas is forced to go on the run as he becomes the target of Ludwig's deranged modern-day followers.… (more)

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