Book Review: The Hangman's Daughter

The Hangman's Daughter
by Oliver Potzsch
Published December 2010
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Description on Amazon: 

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. So begins The Hangman's Daughter--the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch--a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.

My Review: This was a book I had to read for Book Club, which is great because I never would have selected this book on my own. (Thanks Book Club.) I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected. I'd planned to skim it, but ended up becoming completely absorbed and not being able to put it down.

The Hangman's Daughter is less about the daughter than it is about the executioner, Jakob Kuisl, which is fine because he is by far my favorite character. Jakob has the worst job in town. Not only does he perform the function of the town's hangman, he also cleans up refuse, tortures criminals to extract 'confessions,' and does a bit of healing on the side. He is feared and hated by everyone except the doctor's son, Simon. Together, Simon and Jakob attempt to solve a series of murders before an innocent person is executed for the crime.

The hangman's daughter, Magdalena, is a fairly active character in the book, but doesn't feature prominently enough to earn a spot in the title. Another complaint: some modern phrases and 'slang' occasionally appear, but this is a failure on the part of the editors, and not the author's fault.

With well-crafted characters (Jakob and Simon), fast-paced plot, and carefully researched historical background, this book is one I'm certainly glad I read. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a bit different.