Germany, 1659: 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 in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just 70 years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead - marked by the same tattoo - the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos.
Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.
©2011 Oliver Pötzsch, Lee Chadeayne (translation) (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
The story constantly kept me engaged. At several points, I thought I knew what would happen but I was completely wrong. I found this to be a very enjoyable listen. The narrator helped give the story life. He was excellent.I enjoyed hearing the names pronounced. I am not proficient in Polish pronunciation so it was extremely helpful! If you have listened to many books, you know the narrator can make or break the experience.
Say something about yourself!
I discovered this Author by chance and bought the title as a special. Within a few chapters I was hooked and found it hard to put down. (I will add that Grover Gardner is a favourite of mine also.)
The language , plot and characters are wonderfully woven and describe a period in European life that is long forgotten.
I think the emphasis on ordinary people , their lives , their joys and fears endears me to the Author and his story.
I have already purchased and read the second title - The Dark Monk.
I don't mind the long commute anymore. Sometimes I even drive around town just to get to place I can stop.
Oliver has done a fantastic job with his research. It is easy to tell that this series close to his heart. I lived near where the books take place for several years, so for me it was even more interesting. I hope he continues to write in this series.
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 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?
Yes I liked the paradigm shift to criminal justice in the Renaissance when one civil functionary performed many criminal justice roles
The hangman he had a cool analytical mind
i seem to be in the minority here, but I thought this book was so stupid I couldn't stand to finish it, despite the fact that Grover Gardner is one of my all-time fave readers (& he did his usual outstanding job).
Perhaps some of the problem is from translation; I cannot 'stay in' a book set in the 1600s where a character uses "Whatever" in the sense that modern-day teens use it --as in, indicating indifference to anther's statement, for example. There were a few other examples of modern idiom, and a lot of just really hideous dialogue.
Another problem, not translational: the enormous contrast between the anachronistically enlightened/aware hangman & the other superstitious/ignorant villagers was just ridiculous; the hangman not only recognizes that need for cleaning wounds several centuries before anyone else, he realizes all this witch (& much other) stuff is mere ignorant superstition, & to round it out he beats Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock by centuries in his sleuthing. He's way too over the top brilliant & aware.
btw, for those who have trouble reconciling how the kindly healer can also be hangman & torturer, we see in the very first paragraph that the protagonist is himself 'tortured' by what he has to do; we see him getting drunk & generally having a nervous breakdown when it comes time for him to do his thing, especially when he thinks the torturee/executionee is undeserving...he also slips the innocent really groovy drugs before going to work on 'em, so they hardly feel a thing. (that's another thing; I could only wish my current medications were 1/10th as effective as some of his herbal remedies...they just ain't that good).
In contrast to the uber-genius hangman, other characters do such incredibly moronic things that I found myself hoping they'd get killed off before they got a chance to breed (or annoy me further). Things like (this is not a spoiler, it's not something that actually happens, but exactly parallel things do). Stuff like:
--characters X & Y are being chased by others, down a box canyon at night. X & Y are sneaking along, then stop in bushes to listen for sounds of pursuit. Suddenly X stands up & yells "HELLOOO!" Y grabs X & hisses "What are you doing?!" X answers, "I wanted to see if the echo works at night."
--X & Y are being pursued another time (still night). X comes up behind Y, puts hand over Y's mouth so Y doesn't scream, whispers in Y's ear "Shh, it's me, don't scream." Y nods. X lets go. Y shouts "Don't put your hand over my mouth, I hate that!!
Like that. Too dumb to live. I got so annoyed by things that that, & by how over-the-top stupid many characters were all around that I managed to stick with the book about 3/4 of the way through, at which time I decided I'd only bother finishing if I thought every character was going to die a horrible death. But since there are further books in the series, clearly some live on. Needless to say, the hangman, his daughter, & the rest of the gang are going to have to do it without me.
The book provides a engaging tale in early Reformation Bavaria. The mystery plot is reasonably well done, though there is no shocking surprises at the end. While there is an overall predictability to how things would end up, there are enough plot twists to keep it interesting. The descriptions of the witch-hunt mentality, from the aristocracy to the peasantry, appear authentic. The characters have believable and varied personalities that make them enjoyable, although one does not become deeply attached. I found it a very intriguing window into an area I knew only tangentially, and it made for most engaging listening.
Very well read.
Good details of life of a hangman and how they lived on the fringe of society.
After having heard Mr. Gardner's performance, even when I read other books from the series I hear his voice in my head!
The narrator helps to bring the period to life and you get a sense of the lives of the characters.
A great read and listen. The series is wonderful.
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