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Kuzneski, Chris - 'The Secret Crown'
Paperback: 480 pages (Sep. 2010) Publisher: Penguin ISBN: 0241952123

THE SECRET CROWN is the sixth book by acclaimed author, Chris Kuzneski. Although his work has previously been described as having 'raw power', I didn't see much of this in his latest book. To be fair, it is the first of his that I have read, and the storyline is quite interesting - albeit far too easy to read. Sadly, the playful camaraderie between the main characters is more than just a little bit grating after a while, and the sexual tension that develops between them and the pretty female that arrives on the scene is far too predictable. That said, I can see the book being developed into an excellent movie and the ending was extremely well done, so all is not completely lost.

In brief, our two heroes, Jonathan Payne and David Jones, are phoned out of the blue by an old friend and asked to go help him find treasure, in Bavaria. The two are former military types, bored by the mundane nature of their current everyday jobs, and jump at the chance for some action. This is not the first book to feature Payne and Jones, and you soon get the idea that mayhem and murder follow them wherever they go. After arriving in the midst of the action, they uncover an old bunker filled with long-lost artwork and crates of gold that used to belong to the mysterious Swan King, Ludwig II. Pretty soon, though, their friend is seriously injured and they are running for their lives through the Bavarian mountains, with some incredibly inept bad guys hot on their heels.

After a, predictable, helicopter rescue, they reach the relative safety of their friend's warehouse and decide to continue with the hunt, to find out more about this Ludwig and his gold. They have a feeling that more treasure is waiting to be found and they head off to look for clues in one of Ludwig's castles. It is here that they meet Heidi, the, predictably, beautiful tour guide, who enjoys their flirtatious attention and helps them follow the clues.

Can they identify their goal and reach it before 'the goons' reach them? There is a rather clever twist at the end of the book and in its closing stages it does get a bit more exciting, but only in the last 50 pages or so.

Overall, I was rather disappointed with THE SECRET CROWN but think it should prove popular with people who like a very easy read and don't find constant, boyish banter between overgrown military types extremely annoying!

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
March 2011

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 6/03/2011 11:39