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.
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.
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.
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 love all genres of books. However, when I listen to audio books as I clean, garden, drive they are better with a lot of heat!
The story takes place in the middle ages in a German State and is hard to put down. The Hangman is the town executioner, torturer, herbalist, and a family man. He and his family are necessary to the town and at the same time are outcasts of the society. His daughter is a haughty sexy girl who defies the norms as does the Hangman and a local young physician. All are ahead of their time in a world mired in superstition, and religious fervor. A murderer is at work killing children, a mystical mark is found on the bodies, a witch is blamed and the authorities are too eager to find an easy solution to the problem.
The Hangman and the physician use science and common sense to unravel the mystery. The villains and the heroes use violence and torture to achieve their ends. Well written, historically accurate, this is a good read.
Grover Gardner did a good job delivering the story
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.
Interesting historical fiction. I listen to books to and from work and this one had me sitting in the car in my driveway, so I could listen more. Love the heroes. Wish they would make movie or Netflix series out of it!
It was difficult to see the redeeming qualities amidst all the torture, murder, and evil, disgusting characters. A vivid description of what witch trial were like - but not enjoyable in the least.
Though sometimes slow moving with a disappointing, indirect delivery of justice in the end, overall an excellent mystery. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
Narrator sounds like he's in a rush the whole time, never giving his words gravity and often giving them the wrong tone.
The story was good abd in an interesting setting but really gets dragged out.
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