Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 5, 2012 - Book Review - The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch and Lee Chadeayne

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch and Lee Chadeayne
Historical Fiction/Mystery

Product Description:

“A historical thriller set in Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead—marked by the same tattoo—the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos.

Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

A brilliantly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller, The Hangman’s Daughter is the first novel from German television screenwriter Oliver Pötzsch, a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.”

2 out of 5 stars

The author is a descendent of Kuisls Executioners and has taken that history and translated it into the fictional character of Jacob Kuisl, the hangman of Schongau.  The story starts off at a decent pace and briefly tells the story of the grandfather who was the hangman and explains how the son does not want to follow in his fathers’ footsteps.  It then it jumps forward 35 years and refers to Jacob as the grandson who is now the hangman in the same town with no real transition or explanation.  I was surprised at how hung up I got on this detail, throughout the story I found myself trying to figure out if there was an error in the translation and the current hangman was actually the son, and regardless, how the heck did Jacob become the hangman when the prologue clearly indicates that the son would do anything to avoid becoming the hangman.

Setting that issue aside I found that the story moved well in the beginning with the mystery of who was killing the children and the search for the responsible party.  Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle the story got bogged down with talk of medicine versus witchcraft and political structures.  I almost gave up reading it.  Fortunately, clues to the mystery started to pile up and the story became interesting again.  Although, I did find myself “skimming” entire sections just to get through it.

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