In Kuzneski’s latest (The Prophecy, 2010, etc.), series heroes Payne and Jones chase Mad King Ludwig’s mad money.
It’s a legendary stash, hidden away somewhere in one of his many castles. Ludwig II, a king who loved building castles, built them beautifully and, in fact, was planning a masterwork when person or persons unknown put an end to him and it. But that was the treasure’s reason for being, to finance a dream, the tall and turreted Ludwig legacy. Mid-19th-century Bavarians, however, taxed to the max and in effect captive patrons, had by now grown out of sympathy with their monarch’s artistry. Many among them were convinced he was crazy—evidence abounded—while others wondered if the treasure actually existed. Had Ludwig really spent the years amassing jeweled baubles and golden what-nots convertible into cash once his ducks were in a row? Or was it all a case of castle-building in the air? Enter Payne and Jones on cue. Jon Payne and David Jones are ex–Special Forces warriors who retired young and often wish they hadn’t. Classic adrenaline junkies, they miss the thrill of being shot at, and both readily cop to never having felt so alive as when, on one battlefield or another, death breathed down their necks. An old army buddy calls, informs them that another former colleague is in difficulties related to the Ludwig story. Can they rally round, drop everything, join in a quest? He has them at Mad King. Off to Bavaria they go, eager for anything that might involve a fire-fight. But Payne, Jones and company are not by any means the only treasure seekers tramping the Bavarian mountains. There are trigger-happy bad guys galore and a nice girl named Heidi with whom the boys can flirt when not filling body bags.
Formulaic, but clearly Kuzneski’s audience is content to have it so. Still, some of that dialogue is gratingly corny.