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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, and I have several times. I even bought it as a Christmas gift for my father.
He has a great way of speaking and it was nice to hear how the names were supposed to be said instead of the way they read in my language. Such as the character "Simon" which sounds more like "Zeeman". I highly recommend it.
The author provided a very diverse set of characters and told the story from all of their different angles, and it was full of detail and background information that lead to a very intriguing tale and colorful world to both get lost in and be horrified by.
The narrator did a good job. I liked being able to relate to some specific areas of Bavaria, as I live in Germany at the moment. I liked the historical bits the author included. I didn't enjoy the torture/violence and thought the premise of the story and the main characters attitudes required a lot of suspension of disbelief. I would have enjoyed the language more if the translator had left a few more words in German to remind me as I read of the location where it was taking place.
I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.
This was a fairly entertaining mystery book that focuses on some rough stuff at times, like the torture of prisoners to get confessions, even though the Hangman knows the person to be innocent.
As a history buff, I was attracted to the setting and characters of this book. To that end the author did not disappoint. He states in the afterword that he is actually a genealogist by trade, who based this book on his own family's history, which he has investigated thoroughly. I was drawn in to the world of this town executioner, a job I've never read of before. And I liked the depiction of the townsfolk as superstitious and judgmental. It's obvious the author went to great pains to make this book historically accurate and I enjoyed those aspects of it.
Unfortunately though, his abilities as a fiction writer leave much to be desired. As a fun drinking game, try taking a shot every time you hear the word "suddenly". You won't be upright for long. His writing is mechanical in feel, like writing by numbers. His characters have little depth, with the titular hangman's daughter being the only character of much interest. Also he fell for the old "bad guy monologue" at the end, not once, not twice, but three times! Still, I made it to the end and that counts for something. I'm notorious for abandoning books that don't hold my interest. This was to my detriment as the ending is where the wheels really fall off this story.
The narration did this mediocre book no favors. I'm a fan of the narrator, having previously heard him narrate The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. He has a wonderfully soothing voice, like fine grit sandpaper, that I think works perfectly for non-fiction. But he lacks any ability whatsoever to add drama to a narration or to lend unique voices to each character. They're all the same voice, just maybe a little gruffer or softer than the other.
In summation, I gave the book 3 stars because I made it, staggering, to the end. And because I enjoyed the historical elements. If you have no such interest in history then you should probably pass on this one.
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