Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Very Short Review of The Hangman's Daughter

By way of the quite-nice Kindle Owners Lending Library, I recently read Oliver Potzsch's The Hangman's Daughter.

At least part of my interest in the book was that, at the time, my parents were traveling in South Germany, and Potzsch's book is set in the same area (although hundreds of years earlier in time), so it was fun to read about "Augsberg this" and "Ulm that" and "Ingolstadt the other thing".

But Potzsch's book has a lot to recommend it, even if you're not trying to find a fun murder mystery set in Bavaria.

For one thing, the central character is intriguing: Jacob Kuisl is the town hangman for the Bavarian town of Schongau.

In this time, in this part of the world, the town hangman is one part policeman, one part jailor, one part pharmacist, and one part garbageman. The townspeople routinely seek Kuisl out for all sorts of useful (but unpleasant) services, while simultaneously shunning him as low-caste.

In Potzsch's telling, Kuisl is a fascinating individual: self-aware, learned, cynical, and yet morally strong.

When the town is visited by a series of abductions and murders, the townspeople cry "Witchcraft!" and thirst for revenge, and Kuisl, together with a small set of colleagues, must conduct his own research to solve the actual crime, while trying to endure the narrow-minded prejudices of the townsfolk.

The book is rich in atmosphere, nicely paced, and great fun to read, and I really liked learning about this side of medieval life that is rarely described in this manner.

Looking for a summer vacation read? Give The Hangman's Daughter a try.

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