Chris Kuzneski

Penguin UK pbk £6.99

Released: 30th September 2010

Reviewer: Kirstie Long


A fanatical book reader, Kirstie works in Finance. The Ďevil day jobí fits in around her passion of writing, promoting writers of all genres and encouraging more people to read books. She has a special place in her heart for crime fiction.


The Secret Crown is Chris Kuzneskiís sixth novel; a continuation of his characters, Payne & Jones, adventures solving ancient mysteries. This time our audacious duo receive a phone call from an old friend asking for their help and are led into a quest; solving a mystery that has fascinated historians of King Ludwig II of Bavaria for years (known as the Swan King) - and also to ensure they stay alive.  

Set primarily in historic Bavaria, which is described vividly from the forest gorges to the Schloss Linderhof Palace, the story revolves round the mysterious death of the Swan King and the fabled treasure he was reputedly accumulating having bankrupted himself with his architectural masterpieces and patronage of all things cultural. Payne, Jones and the recurring character Petr Ulster use their unique skills and knowledge to put the puzzle pieces together from the various riddles and clues to find the end prize whilst avoiding the enemy.  

As with all of Chrisís books, the research is flawless and he leads you through the historical fact providing a gripping fascination whilst seamlessly interweaving the fiction needed to provide a rational conclusion to the story that has you wondering if that really did happen. Not only that, he packs in so much action that effortlessly intersperses with the mystery, you always seem to be on a roller coaster that doesnít slow down until the last few pages.  

Payne and Jones are their usual laconic selves, albeit it very dangerous, and whether considered realistic or not, make excellent heroes with their special ops background and black humour. The change from Payneís easy going nature to adrenaline filled soldier to shark-eyed and cold-hearted killer is inherently flawless and provides a chilling edge because it is easy to forget the various facets of the personality until they next surface.    

Fans of this series will love this new story and, in my opinion, like the way both Payne and Jones have grown in character throughout but especially in The Secret Crown. There has always been a natural relaxed friendship that comes through the pages and coupled with the sardonic yet often simple wit has been something that intrigued me as a reader from the start. Now itís much more intrinsic and shows a strong development in writing, taking Chris above his peers.  

Anyone who likes historical adventures in an action packed thriller will love The Secret Crown.






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