I was really surprised when I looked at the reviews for this book. I thought that this book was average AT BEST. For a mystery it completely lacks any drive or urgency. Perhaps this is because I didn't care about any of the characters - some were flimsily drawn, some were robotic, and some were just down right comical. The plot was slow and plodded along (and along and along). There were chapters that, in my opinion, needed editing - nothing happened in them worth mentioning! While I am no medieval expert some of the things that were said or done just seemed unbelievable to me. Finally, the narrator didn't do much to help the robotic characters. I think he sounded at times like a computerized voice.
I really thought I would have liked this book. I sometimes like typical genre plots told in new settings to make them fresh, but I just couldn't connect with this book.
First, if you don't want to hear graphic descriptions of torture and life in the mid-1600s then you might want to avoid this book. The local midwife has been accused of witchcraft and tossed in prison. Back in those days people were tortured until they got a confession so there are several descriptive torture scenes. The townspeople believe in witchcraft and devils (this story takes place 70 years after the witch trials where about 60 women were accused of witchcraft and killed) and see signs of it in the most innocent of things and hysteria starts to rise and demands are made for the midwife/witch to be killed. Mob mentality arises and has to be subdued.
As I said earlier, the book gets very graphic in descriptions of the hangman's trade and also other atrocities committed by the mercenaries of the time and also the treatment of women and children.
The title is a little misleading in that even though the hangman does have a daughter and she plays a small role, the majority of the book is centered around the hangman and the university-educated son of the local doctor trying to figure out who is responsible for the murders and destruction of property since they believe in the midwife's innocence.
This book reminded me a little of Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon which centered around a witch trial in 1699. If you enjoyed that book you would probably enjoy this one as well.
In general I love historical fiction and this book seemed like it would have lots going for it. But it failed in every aspect of it. The characters were flat, boring and cliche. The plot moved extremely slowly and 'clues' were gone over again and again and again and then again a few chapters later, in case you forgot. The whole book could have been half the length without losing anything. The translation was stilted, especially with idioms and phrases. For those who might be faint of heart, the descriptions of torture and killing is not extremely graphic but presented in a very matter-of-fact way. Probably not for everyone.
My biggest problem with the book was continuity errors and plot holes. The editor of this book needs to be fired. Sometimes it's little things, like the main characters get covered in clay dust which they can't get off, and an hour later when one goes to town to get help, no one asks why they're all covered in dirt. When you find out who did it, I invite you to go back and read the initial descriptions of this character's physical characteristics and then read the big confrontation scene again. See the problem? Appalling.
In the middle of the book, I thought I'd be giving this book maybe 3 stars and say that it was kind of ok for listening to in the car, but the completely frustrating plot hole at the end was the final turn of the thumb-screw for me. I confess: I hated this book. Would not recommend, will not buy the sequel.
I was between books and was looking for something that would be mildly entertaining. I noticed that these series of books had really gotten good reviews, so I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try.
This story held my interest throughout the book and whenever I had to stop, I somewhat impatiently waited to have time to pick it up again. The story weaves in and out without losing the reader and the characters are fully developed. The story comes to a satisfactory end, not one that leaves you hanging.
As soon as I finished, I bought the next in the series. If you purchase this book/audiobook, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
PS: Grover Gardner is an excellent narrator, as usual.
Most definitely kept me on the edge. Peril lies at every turn.
They are all performed superbly. Simon was my favorite character, but that is mainly due to the author's development of the character.
I have not read the print version but did like the audio version.
At the very end, the author spoke of researching his family ancestry and finding much of the material, the people, he used in this book. The story was fiction but he used enough of the reality of the time to write an interesting and intriguing mystery.
The Hangman and his daughter.
It's the mid-1500's; will the town's hangman solve the mystery before he is require to do his job?
The idea that the town's executioner should be more worried about justice than the burghers is a great premise. The story moves along, but the repetition in the prose is off-putting. Character development is slow and that's not always bad - but in this case, some of the major characters are still incomplete at the end of the book. Hints are given, but clarity would be nice. I found it strange that the reformation was totally ignored.
The premise for this book is intriguing, but in reality it falls far short of even being remotely good. If it wasn't for some farely graphic descriptions of violence I would have thought that it was aimed at the young adult or even children's market.
Some of the istorical background is interesting but the story itself is barely credible. Again and again our heroes are saved by coincidences and occurrances which stretch the definition of Deus ex machina to its absolute limit.
Lastly, the dialogue is wooden and many passages often repeat themselves.
It is possible that some of these faults are due to a poor translation from the original german, but it doesn't excuse the tissue thin plot and eventual resolution.
There are many other historical who done its out there which are more worthy of your credits.
reading is pure joy
better writing/story/characters. Characters are sterotypes -- good wise women accused of being witches, evil fat money bags, a limping badguy who is the devil incarnate because he is named so, and the best a hero hangman "sorry i have to torture you because otherwise i can't be around to prove you innocent" -- and too many modern sensibilities for what should be a recreation of the 1600's. The tie the innocent girl to the train tracks plot set in a poorly depicted medieval town.
not his fault
This was a great book, very engaging, but the narrator was just awful! Lacking any inflection, he rattled on in a monotone, even when describing some really harrowing bits of the story. Still well worth a listen, I wish I'd read the book, since I think I would have given this a 5-star rating. The narrator almost killed it for me.
I enjoyed the German history, and the insights into the methods and expertise of hangmen during the 17th century. The narration was engaging and well performed. Though the story was a bit long-winded at times, and lacked momentum towards the end.