I finally have the chance to write a The Hangman’s Daughter book review. I stumbled across the book by Oliver Pötzsch a while ago, and put it on my shelf. I’m always intrigued by the books from Germany that get translated and become bestsellers in the US. On my way to the airport last week I grabbed the book and stuffed it in my bag. And I have to say, I’m glad I did! it was an interesting read.
A little background about Oliver Pötzsch. He is a German writer who wrote this book after doing thorough research on his ancestors, who were members of the Kuisls family, a family of executioners in Bavaria. As difficult as it was to change your station in life as a German (once a farmer, always a farmer) it was even worse for Executioners. They were considered outcasts of a sort. Their male children would all become executioners, and their daughters could only marry into other executioner’s families. All other options were cut off to them.
Yet, despite this harsh judgement, the job of Executioner was vitally important to maintaining the law in German society. He was not only responsible for putting people to death, and extracting information through torture, often the executioner was a sort of doctor. Their knowledge of the body’s functions, combined with a knowledge of herbs, gave them an interesting view of medicine.
Which brings us to the International Bestseller, The Hangman’s Daughter…
The Hangman’s Daughter Book Review
The Hangman’s Daughter is a mystery. Who is killing the children of Schongau? And why are there strange symbols tattooed on their shoulder? Is it witchcraft? Who is behind this?
After the first death, the local Alderman task Jakob Kusil, Schongau’s Executioner, with questioning the local Midwife Martha Stechlin, through intimidation and torture, to find out if she is behind the murders and disappearances. The fear of witchcraft hangs over the town. Years before, there had been a purge, and many innocent women were put to death, and Kusil wants to avoid mob hysteria. Carefully he juggles “questioning Martha” according to council wishes, with his own private investigations.
When other children are murdered or go missing, fear sweeps the town, and Jakob must work hard find the real culprit.
Jakob isn’t the only one seeking the truth. Simon Fronwieser, modern thinking son of the local physician, is also questioning the Witchcraft claims. Together with Magdalena Kusil, the Hangman’s Daughter, they discover the truth behind the murders.
The Hangman’s Daughter reminds me a bit of the Umberto Eco book, The Name of the Rose, only it is much less dense. This book is a who-done-it, set just after the Thirty Years War. Symbols and witchcraft, leeches and herbs, mud and execution were still quite common. As was fear of the unknown. The story is well researched, with a great deal of information about life in Germany hundreds of years ago. I was fascinated to learn about the state of medicine at the time… how backward it still was, considering the advances that had been made.
The book was bloody, but not in a gory horror novel way. It was more of a matter-of-fact explanation the methods of the time. There really is no way to pretty up torture or execution… but the descriptions were in no way horribly graphic.
This is the First Book of the Hangman’s Daughter Series… and I look forward to reading the others.
Find the Hangman’s Daughter and the Other Books in the Series here
The Hangman’s Daughter (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale Book 1)The Werewolf of Bamberg (US Edition) (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale Book 5)The Dark Monk (US Edition) (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale)The Poisoned Pilgrim (US Edition) (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale Book 4)The Beggar King (US Edition) (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale Book 3)
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