This historical account of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is every bit as gripping as The Day of the Jackal. Using newly available sources and older material, David James Smith brilliantly reinvestigates and reconstructs the events which subsequently determined the shape of the twentieth century. Young Gavrilo Princip arrived at the Vlajnic pastry shop in Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina on the morning of 28 June 1914. He was greeted by his fellow conspirators in the plot to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The Archduke, next in the Habsburg line to succeed his elderly uncle, Franz Joseph, as Emperor of Austria, was beginning a state visit to Sarajevo later that morning with his wife Sophie. Ferdinand was not a very popular character, not even in Austria, not even at his own court where he was widely thought of as bad-tempered and arrogant and perhaps even deranged. To the young students he embodied everything they loathed about imperial oppression. They planned to kill him at about 11 o'clock as he paraded down Appel Quay to the town hall in his open top car.
Weighed down by its historical burden, buried under mounds of analysis and portentous commentary, the story of the assassins and the assassination has been lost. David James Smith creates a narrative that takes place in one day, interweaved with the build-up to the assassination, focusing for the first time on the fine detail of the plot and the characters of those involved. What happened in those few hours - leading as it did to the First and Second World Wars - is as compelling as any thriller.
David James Smith was born in Hemel Hempstead in 1956 and has been a journalist all his working life. He writes for the Sunday Times Magazine.