The Ludwig Conspiracy
How did the Fairy-Tale King of Bavaria, King Ludwig II, really die? A quick summation:
Today, Ludwig remains famous for the castles he built and attempted to build, most notably Neuschwanstein Castle, perched high in the Alpine foothills. The king was a romantic, a friend and supporter of composer Richard Wagner, and he hired theatrical set designers rather than architects to design his castles. More absorbed in his personal world than state affairs, Ludwig spent most of his time on his own projects -- emptying his personal coffers -- and left his ministers frustrated by his inattention. When his cabinet accused him of insanity, he was placed in custody after a brief showdown at Neuschwanstein Castle, and was taken to a castle next to Lake Starnberg. The following day, while out for a walk, Ludwig disappeared, his lifeless body discovered hours later. The death was declared a suicide, but many have rejected that ruling, and the demise of this popular king remains a mystery to this day.
His mysterious death forms the center of this enjoyable historical thriller. The plot begins with the murder of a Professor who had come into possession of the encoded diary of one of Ludwig's confidants. Before his death, he hides the book in the antiquarian bookstore of rare-book dealer Steven Lukas. Steven is soon thrown into a world of murder, intrigue, and centuries-old secret societies. (Does this sound like a Dan Brown book to you? You're thinking on the right path. The pull-quote on the back says "Pötzsch's sophisticated plotting and good use of a real-life historical puzzle place this far ahead of most Da Vinci Code wannabes.")
I found the story engrossing and fun to read; the story takes you to all of King Ludwig II's castles as Steven and Sara (art detective, they fall in love, duh) hunt for clues to decipher the mysterious journal. The pieces all come together, with some twists, and the book is a satisfying read if you go in with the expectation of a fun historical thriller. I think a few things got lost in translation (the writing gets a bit clunky), and Sara does not get nearly enough credit for the role she plays in solving the murder. (Classic Hermione Granger situation going on!)
The epigraph Pötzsch choses to begin the story with is "history is the lie that is commonly agreed upon" - Voltaire. While we may never know what happened to King Ludwig II, Pötzsch presents a compelling version of history.