The Hangman’s Daughter: Oliver Potzsch

Book #1 in The Hangman’s Daughter Series

Originally written in the author’s native German, ‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ chronicles the story of the Kuisl Family. Notorious in their town, Jakob Kuisl’s lineage is that of being the town executioner. While his wife watches after their twins, his oldest daughter, Magdalena, assists her father in gathering medicinal herbs. For the town of Schongau, their executioner also acts as an unlicensed physician.

Schongau in the 1600’s is an uneasy time both politically & economically. Like a slow-burning fire, everything must remain carefully maintained in order to prevent an uncontrollable blaze. Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing gasoline on such a fire.
When a young, malnourished boy is pulled from the river, this sleepy town awakes rapidly. Not only has he been horribly mistreated, but on his shoulder a sign has been painted. No one needs deep explanations. A sign of this nature only points to witchcraft.

Being that she has a bond with the town’s children & is known to use unconventional medicine, Martha, the midwife, has the finger pointed her way. No evidence of her practicing witchcraft exists, but the town’s out for blood after the boy dies. Martha never stood a chance. Seeing the only way to give her a fair trial is to jail her, Jakob places her is prison while things are sorted out. Once the witch siren is sounded, it’s nearly impossible to shake the label in this era. Because the townspeople fear the unknown, it’s far easier to blame the occult than to accept a new possibility in their way of life.

Jakob, along with Magdalena’s love interest, the town physician’s son, Simon, is sure there is a natural albeit sinister plot going on. Knowing that he personally will be responsible for having to send Martha to the stake makes him determined to find the truth. Little evidence exists so he & Simon will need all their wits & courage. More deaths occur accompanied by the infamous mark on the shoulder. Martha’s in prison, so who or what is wreaking havoc in town? No one is safe & the townsfolk are screaming for Marth’s execution. Jakob, who is used to taking lives, must now work at lightning speed to save one as well as his town.

Bravo! Books like this make me glad I’m a reader. I’m also quite thankful that the translator did such a phenomenal job. First, I love that the author took a time period like the 1600s & crafted such a story without the need for the thees & thous of the Old English. Even though he used modern sounding dialogue, it took nothing away from the story, whatsoever. That truly speaks to our author’s skill.
Next, while the Hangman’s job is a nasty one, we aren’t bombarded with gore. Yes, there are a few skittish scenes. However, they aren’t overdone & a definitely essential to the plot.

The book’s title is slightly puzzling to me as it could have been called a hundred different things. I do understand how instrumental Magdalena is to the plot, but, nevertheless, it was puzzling. That is the only thing resembling a complaint that I have! It is such a fantastically crafted story that I am mad at myself for not having read it sooner. I’d seen it many times & skipped over it. It is simply put, a fabulous book that I highly recommend.

Don’t be mislead by its label of Historical Fiction. It has more action, mystery, & suspense than most works on the market today. I’m thrilled that it is a series. I didn’t want the book to end! 5 stars & more if I could!


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