The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Too many books, too little time – and too much Olympics to watch – and I really need to catch up on these reviews, and so the next few reviews will be briefer than most.

Schongau, Germany, 1659. Children have been found killed with a sign of witchcraft daubed on their skin. As the persecution of the local midwife grows, the town is stalked by a devilish figure with a hand made of bone, searching for the remaining children. Jakob Kuisl, the local hangman, his daughter Magdalena and Simon Fronweiser, the son of the local doctor and in love with Magdalena, are convinced of the midwife’s innocence, but when Kuisl is charged with torturing her, can he prove her innocence and keep her free from harm?

This has been published by Amazon Crossing, a project, as far as I can see, as a means of producing translated fiction for Kindle – and this is a bargain at £1.99.

It’s a rather good historical read, with a different feel from the others that I usually look at due to the setting of a small German village, well away from actual historical events or characters, although according to the author’s note, there is some reality in the Kuisl character. The historical side is very well done, as is the thriller element, with the Devil character proving to be an impressively creepy villain. The mystery element is less good, as the identity of the Devil’s employer, the so-called moneybags, feels like it was pulled out of a hat as the pages ran out.

I’ll make a bit of an issue with the translation as well – there are some words – notably spooky, chaps, grubs and mastermind – that seemed out of place in the historical setting. Also the word moneybags for a rich person is used a lot towards the end of the book. Maybe I’m being picky, but that stood out to me. And a final moan – the Hangman’s daughter has the least to do out of the protagonists, so why is she the title character?

Overall, though, it’s a good read, just don’t expect much of a mystery.



  1. Puzzle Doctor – I do like a well-drawn historical novel, so thanks for this review. Even if the mystery isn’t one of those absorbing ones, the context seems interesting.


    • The foreign setting made a difference too. The parts of the book concerning the life of the village hangman is absolutely fascinating. I’ll certainly be looking at the sequel The Dark Monk in the future.


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