Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

I am a big fan of historical fiction, because I like to learn about different periods in history in an interesting and engaging way. I had never heard of The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch until I was offered the chance to read it, and its sequel, The Dark Monk, via BzzAgent.

Centered around a town executioner in 17th century Bavaria, The Hangman's Daughter is a mystery set in a time when women were still commonly burned at the stake for suspicion of witchcraft. When orphans start turning up dead with strange markings on their skin, the local midwife becomes the scapegoat, in the hopes of avoiding a huge scandal and mass hysteria that could very well end tragically with a widespread witch hunt. But the hangman takes up her cause and, together with an accomplice, works to find the true answers to the mysterious events happening in their town.

At times this was a very frustrating read, because the world was simply not very just, to put it mildly, during the 17th century. Dangerous prejudices abounded and often lead to unfounded accusations and, ultimately, torture and execution. Anything that was not understood by most people was immediately under suspicion. For example, midwives knew of herbal remedies to help with many different ailments. Although others commonly sought these remedies and advice from the midwife, they also felt scared and confused by her abilities and knowledge. Even children were not safe from wild speculations, especially if they associated with the midwife, as they did in The Hangman's Daughter.

The dichotomous hangman is probably my favorite of the richly portrayed characters in the book. He is lethal, but also one of the most compassionate, caring, intelligent, and clear thinking citizens of the town. Although they are considered to be social outcasts, the hangman and his daughter are clearly ahead of their time.

I love that Potzsch is a descendent of a long line of Bavarian executioners, the Kuisl family (same as in the story), and that he was inspired by genealogy and family lore to write The Hangman's Daughter. I look forward to reading The Dark Monk to see what mystery befalls the hangman and his family next.

Right now, The Hangman's Daughter is only $3.99 for the Kindle edition or $7.20 in paperback on Amazon. I enjoyed the book, even if I was a bit tense throughout most of it!

I received a complimentary Kindle copy of The Hangman's Daughter thanks to BzzAgent. All opinions are my own.


Jackie said...

I have this book too and can't wait to read it! It's on my reading list plan for next week while on vacation!

AML said...

Interesting book!Thanks for the review. I would include this on my must read books. I love how the characters entwined with 17th century culture.