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.
I find I quite enjoy this story. It is not life- changing in any way, but still slightly addicting and very entertaining. I do find that I wish I'd have gotten a version in the original language, however. This reader's attempts at reading any occurring German names, verses or phrases is so bad that I, a fluent speaker of the language, cannot understand what he is saying. If you understand German, I'd recommend you to not get this version, and rather take the trouble of trying to dig up a German one.
It was different and I loved that it gave hints to help us work out the plot. I liked most of the characters. I am writing the review quite some time after listening to it, however I do not think I had any issues with the narrator. It did start better than it ended and I may read another. The author may improve and smooth out his writing as the series progresses. I liked the character of Jakob he seemed well developed. His daughter and the doctor had some inconsistent flaws, possibly we lose something in translation. In general a solid 4 stars.
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.
Not by the author, narrator fine.
"The Boy in his Winter; An American Novel"
The graphic violence
Using his far distant ancestor who was a hangman in Bavaria in the 17th century as the main charcater was a great idea but the story developed very slowly and was quite repetitive (I can't count how many times a charcter reminded us of the main plot elements). Overall can't recommend.
This certainly wasn't an unenjoyable book. It had its moments - there's some action, there are some tense moments, and so on, but ultimately this book is supposed to be a mystery, and there it falls short. I'm pretty sure your average reader would have this figured out roughly half way through the story, at least to the point where he or she is just waiting for the minor details to be revealed.
There's a little too much conventional content in the book - the torturer conflicted about what he has to do; the self serving bureaucrats; the penniless serfs. It all seems a little tired. Also, there is the occasional lapse into the 21st century as far as the narrative, which breaks the spell a book like this is supposed to cast. For example, I believe that at one point the narrative describes a character's realization as having made "the light bulb go on". Huh? 1659?
That may be a function of the translation. I don't know. Having said that, the book does not read / listen as something that's been translated. The performance is also very good. I like Grover Gardner, although I still can't stop comparing him Frank Muller because of all the Stephen King books I've listened to. Frank was cool.
Anyway, it wasn't bad, but I don't think I'll listen to the rest of the series.
I think 3 stars is the perfect number for this one. It was an interesting tale, with a couple of likeable characters, as in Zeeman, the doctor and Quizel the Hangman. They had a special rapport between them that gives you a chuckle now and then. The Hangman is portrayed as a just man and not a cruel man. All and all the story isn't horrifying, as one might think it will be. It's a murder (several murders) mystery that Quizel and Zeeman set out to solve in order for an innocent woman's life to be spared, and to save the lives of several children. It shows the narrow mindedness of people, as mass hysteria takes over. Then and now, some things never change.
I tried to listen to this book but the narration was so awful I had to stop. I will read the book, but am returning the audiobook portion.
I am rarely seen without my headphones on and my iPod clipped on my waist. I love my books.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery set in the 1600's in Germany. The author transports you back to a time before all of our modern conveniences and modern ways of thinking. How different things were back then. This is a fascinating series, and I will get them all. Well worth the credit and time.
I went into this not knowing what to expect. First it was a translation, then it was historical fiction which differs a lot from my usual contemporary reads.
It was an excellent "whodunit". I just wanted to scream at the ignorance and superstition of the German villagers, but after all, it was roughly the same time as the Salem witch trials, so it wasn't unique to German peasants.
Just enough peril to the good guys, and I had no idea until the end who the mastermind was.
Inflection and pronunciations.
The biggest problem with this book is that the narrator is flat and monotonous. If this were a history lecture all the students would be asleep, but since the story is interesting, you should be able to stay conscious. I did have to do an eye-roll when one of the good guys was finally confronting the bad guy and they both felt the need to spill their guts, explaining every single action they had each taken to get them to that point (even those things the reader already knew) - I thought it was overkill and a bit on the sappy side. I almost expected the bad guy to say something like "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids". Other than that, it was a nice read and the historical context credible. I will definitely check out this author's other books.
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