The Hangman’s Daughter

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Oliver Pötzsch’s ,” The Hangman’s Daughter” is a historical thriller set in small Bavarian town. It starts with Jakob Kuisl being a young boy assisting his father with an execution. The story then begins with murder of children in the Alpine town where Jakob Kuisl is now a hangman. The murder suspect is a midwife who is accused of practicing witchcraft. In the mean time more children are killed and the citizens of our good town start whispering about witches, sorcerers and devils. Amidst the mounting hysteria and fear of witchcraft the hangman races against time to save the children from being killed and midwife from being staked alive. Helping him in his deduction are his head-strong beautiful daughter Magdalena and a young physician Simon who is smitten with his daughter.

While the murder plot is somewhat loose, the atmosphere and history surrounding the story are described genuinely and brilliantly. The author has perfectly captured the 17th century mindset about witch craft and women. The cruel society where a hangman is necessary to do all the dirty work but talking or socializing with him brought bad luck and where any woman with slightest knowledge about herbs and health was looked on with suspicion, has been described well by the author. The best part for me was the location of the story which was set in a small Bavarian town in 17th century. Historical fiction very often gets based in Elizabethan England and it gets a tad boring for me. Since Pötzsch himself descends from line of Kuisl executioners from Bavaria, he knows what he is writing about. The characters could use a little more fleshing out, especially the villains but he has done a good job of characterizing Jakob Kuisl, an executioner with unusual compassionate nature.

Overall it is a well-written historical fiction which will not disappoint if read with an open mind. I am looking forward to reading more books by Pötzsch.

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