cover image The Ludwig Conspiracy: 
A Historical Thriller

The Ludwig Conspiracy: A Historical Thriller

Oliver Pötzsch, trans. from the German by Anthea Bell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (448p) ISBN 978-0-547-74010-2

German author Pötzsch (The Poisoned Pilgrim and three other books in his Hangman’s Daughter historical series) makes clever use of Bavaria’s equivalent of the Kennedy assassination in this excellent stand-alone. The death in 1886 of Ludwig II of Bavaria (aka “Mad King Ludwig”) has spawned countless conspiracy theories, despite the official verdict that the monarch drowned himself in Lake Starnberg after strangling his psychiatrist. In the present, Munich bookseller Steven Lukas finds himself the object of unwelcome attention—and a murder suspect—after he obtains a book entitled Memoirs of Theodor Marot, who was the assistant to the king’s personal physician. This document recounts the truth about the events leading up to Ludwig’s death. That truth is far from an academic question, since a modern-day self-declared king of Bavariadispatches violent henchmen to recover the memoirs. While readers will find broad parallels with Dan Brown’s thrillers, Pötzsch’s sophisticated plotting and good use of a real-life historical puzzle place this far ahead of most Da Vinci Code wannabes. (Sept.)