Review: The Hangman’s Daughter (Hangman’s Daughter #1) by Oliver Pötzsch

A scream rips through the early morning fog of the small Bavarian town known as Schongau.

The body of a young boy washes ashore, tattooed with a suspecious mark…..a witches mark to be precise.

The people are in a frenzy when the local hangman, Jakob Kuisl, arrives to investigate the body and determine if witchcraft was indeed involved.

Before Kuisl can make a final decision, the townspeople jump to their own conclusions and go after the only person who could be capable of witchcraft….the midwife.

With the dark memories of witch trials and stake burnings stil fresh in their minds, the townspeople arrive at the midwifes house demanding answers. Kuisl takes her into custody though he is convinced of her innocents.

Determined to prove her innocents, Kuisl and a local physician, Simon, begin their investigation.

Ironically, there has also been talk of a strange visitor throughout the town. Supposedly the Devil is on the loose. With a hand made of bone, blood red doublet, and sinister entourage, he is clearly up to no good!

But when then more bodies start turning up….all with the same witches mark, even though the midwife is in jail…fear turns to paranoia and chaos. Perhaps the witch called the Devil to do her evil bidding while she was locked up, or perhaps there is no Devil? Speculation is running rapid!

The town council must act, they must get a confession out of the witch before public frenzy destroys the village. The call in a professional torturer….the hangman. Kuisl is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Though he doesn’t suspect the midwife of witchcraft, there is evidence of the occult in the murders. His only option is to solve the murders before the midwife is sentenced to death.

The Hangman’s Daughter is an intelligent, macabre, historic thriller full of mystery!

I really enjoyed reading this book, first of all, I loved the cover. I also got the illustrated edition on my iPad which added to the dark, macabre feel of the novel. I really enjoy books with a gothic feel, not horror but true gothic novels. This book had all the great gothic elements that I love: occultism, complex macabre characters, gritty/creepy villains, and an overall spooky feel. This book reminded me  a little of a modern re-telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hallow. The illustrations and cover captured that feeling to the letter!

Historically, this books gives a wonderful snapshot into the daily life of Medieval Germans. Although there is some modern language in the translation (it was originally written in German), I didn’t think it distracted from the story. If anything I thought the more casual language improved the flow of the story.

The author was obviously familiar with the historic period and the social structure of the culture and time. I liked the use of herbal remedies and the witchcraft angle.

Kuisl and Simon make a fun detective team, but I found Simon was the most interesting character for me. I liked his good humor and his ‘the devil may care’ attitude about the towns people and society. Kuisl played the intelligent, multi-faceted brute well, but there was something a little wanting in his character for me.

Magdelena’s character (the hangman’s daughter) has a great foundation and room for growth as a main character and love interest. I liked her from the get go….she was funny, spunky, and quick witted. Magdelena didn’t over power the mystery/thrill plot aspect nor did her character eclipse others in the story.

I liked reading the love story between Magdelena, it was the primary focus of the novel but more of a side interest that the reader wanted to see develop but yet wasn’t completely engrossed with. I thought it broke up the mystery nicely and added another level of excitement to the story.

The only thing which made this a 4 star book instead of a 5 for me was the intricate mystery structure. I often felt like the characters knew what was going on and what the clues meant but the reader didn’t. They really didn’t give away anything about the mystery until the very end.

There were times when Kuisl figured a clue out and said he knew how it related to the case, but then the chapter would end without any hint of what was to come. I realize this method was meant to build suspense but as a reader I was hoping that the characters would throw me a bone or two.

There was just enough romance, mystery, and character development across the board to leave room for growth in future books.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Hangman’s Daughter (Hangman’s Daughter #1) by Oliver Pötzsch 

  • Kindle Edition, 431 pages (illustrated)
  • Published (first published April 1st 2008)
  • ASIN B003P9XMFI

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (a great macabre historic thriller with a detective novel feel)

Genre: Thriller, mystery, historic fiction, detective novel, gothic lit

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Life went on, despite all the dying.


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