Title: The Hangman’s Daughter (#1 The Hangman’s Daughter)
Author: Oliver Pötzsch, Lee Chadeayne (translator)
Published by: AmazonCrossing
Publication date: 7th December 2010
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Cultural
“If you want to know who is responsible for anything, ask who benefits from it.”
Pötzsch, a descendant of the Kuisls, a Bavarian executioner clan, tells a chilling story of murder and witchcraft with pieces from his ancestral history set in 17th century Germany after the Thirty Years’ War.
The Hangman’s Daughter centers mainly around Jakob Kuisl, a jack of all trades who, despite having a kind heart and a practical mind, is the town’s executioner as he inherited the job from his father. He and his daughter, Magdalena, are both outcasts in their town as they are ‘surrounded by death’. The hangman has a wonderful relationship with Magdalena and he teaches and treats her like an equal in a time when women weren’t supposed to know anything but how to cook and clean.
When multiple children start winding up dead with crude markings on their bodies or are just plain missing, Jakob is asked to figure out what’s going on before the public gets too paranoid with thoughts of witchcraft and the devil. Jakob, along with Magdalena and the town’s young physician, Simon, are on a race against time to catch the killer and restore peace of mind to everyone. Innocent people are locked up, the wrongdoers go free and the only ones who truly know what’s going on refuse to speak.
The writing is so dark and beautiful. The story itself is realistic and I loved its insight into a 1600s German town where there aren’t enough rations to go around, death is around every corner, people are being abducted, paranoia rests inside every head, “rumors are like smoke’, and there’s a budding romance between two people who’s lives separate them.
The townspeople are painted as ignorant and superstitious but I think that having just gotten out of a war and suddenly children are winding up dead, they’re entitled to it and I didn’t see it as a fault in the story. In fact, I think it helped focus in on Jakob, Magdalena and Simon, who all stayed level headed throughout their investigations.
The Hangman’s Daughter is a thrilling read and I enjoyed the story telling, the mystery, and all of the historical aspects to it. It flows smoothly and delves into issues such as morality and justice. I would definitely recommend it, though some may not like it as it is very gritty and dark. A good read for the Halloween season!