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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Ludwig Conspiracy

Oliver Pötzsch

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To purchase The Ludwig Conspiracy

Title: The Ludwig Conspiracy
Author: Oliver Pötzsch
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 420 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Ludwig Conspiracy - US
The Ludwig Conspiracy - UK
The Ludwig Conspiracy - Canada
Die Ludwig-Verschwörung - Deutschland
  • German title: Die Ludwig-Verschwörung
  • Translated by Anthea Bell

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Our Assessment:

B- : pretty basic plot and writing, but historical/present-day back and forth and some decent twists makes for an okay story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 15/7/2013 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "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." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Ludwig Conspiracy begins near Munich, Germany, in 2010. As is soon revealed, Professor Paul Liebermann visited the shop of antiquarian bookseller Steven Lukas and stashed away a small wooden box on the shelves. Some people who are after that box and its contents caught up with the professor immediately after that, and when he won't reveal where it is they go after Lukas, beginning a high-stakes cat and mouse game.
       As the bookseller discovers when he finds and opens the box, it contains some photographs as well as a diary -- of one Theodor Marot. Here, possibly, is information about the mysterious circumstances under which the "Fairy-tale king", King Ludwig II of Bavaria, died more than a century earlier. Unfortunately, the diary is written in some sort of code, and Lukas can't immediately decipher it.
       It quickly becomes apparent that the people who are interested in the box now in Lukas' possession are very eager to get their hands on it -- and willing to go to great and violent extremes, too. An attractive young art detective, Sara Lengfeld, also comes into the picture, introducing herself as the niece of Professor Liebermann. Before you know it, she and Lukas are on the run -- while also searching for clues to help decode parts of the diary by visiting some of Ludwig's former haunts.
       The bulk of the diary turns out to be fairly straightforwardly decipherable, and the present-day action alternates with sections from the diary, revealing Marot's memoirs and offering some insight first into Ludwig and then the circumstances surrounding his death.
       Hot on the trail of Lukas and Sara throughout are members of a secret society that still venerates Ludwig, the Cowled Men. With one figure bearing down on them a self-styled modern-day king -- and demanding to be treated as such (though relying, for the time being., on mercenaries) -- Ludwig's peculiar madness seems to have afflicted others who are involved, too.
       Ludwig II is presented much as popular history has it: "a king of the moonlight who made night his day and lived in his own fairy-tale world"; indeed, even those close to him acknowledge: "He is a man from another world". Meanwhile, present-day Lukas is also rather otherworldly in some ways, too; the forty-year-old's bookshop isn't faring well, and he has trouble adjusting to many of the ways of the modern world -- he's without a Facebook page or practically any Internet presence, for example. An amusing old-fashioned/European touch is to have Sara and Lukas come to agree to be on a first-name basis only near the middle of the book (page 198 !), despite what they've been through together by then.
       The number of characters who haven't quite or completely taken to modern times, or cling to aspects of the past makes for some interesting contrasts, but it's difficult for a lot of this not to veer too far into the comic, even at its most serious. So there are scenes like this:

     To the left and right of this improvised throne the paladins Gawain and Mordred stood guard, holding their automatic Uzis in front of them, like lances adorned with pennants. To hold audience, the king wore the royal cloak of white ermine from which the professor's blood had been removed by chemical cleaning. A thin aristocratic hand tightly gripped the same Derringer the king had used to spray Paul Liebermann's brain matter over the forest floor.
       While The Ludwig Conspiracy at times seems to be in danger of becoming just a drawn-out chase-novel -- with the question of where the authorities are during all this (and also why Lukas and Sara didn't go to them at various points, the one ostensible reason given for avoiding them surely outweighed by the mess they find themselves in) a nagging one -- Pötzsch does manage to throw in a few decent twists. Several people turn out not to be quite who they seem, in one way or another -- and even if that's ultimately all too neat and clever, it makes for some decent resolutions.
       Pötzsch's writing is workmanlike, but can be trying. He tries hard, but he doesn't seem to have a natural ear (or well-developed artificial one) for writing, and the narrative, for all the supposedly exciting action, can get to be a slog for stretches. Fans of historical fiction and the Ludwig-saga will probably find enough here to satisfy them, but otherwise this book is hard to recommend.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 October 2013

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The Ludwig Conspiracy: Reviews: Oliver Pötzsch: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German author Oliver Pötzsch was born in 1970.

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