The Hangman’s Daughter [first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, August 9 2011]

The Hangman’s Daughter

by Oliver Potzsch, trans. by Lee Chadeayne

Share This This book takes readers to a grim time in history–16th-century Germany, where ignorance and fear led to many witch burnings. Hangman Jacob Kuisl is one of the few who doesn’t believe in witches; however, his job–an inherited position–requires a keen knowledge of herbs and techniques to cause as well as relieve pain, because he’s also the town torturer and executioner. A man of contemporary sensibilities, he has taught his daughter, Magdalena, to read, and drinks himself comatose several days before every execution.

Three boys of an orphan gang are found murdered, each with a crude tattoo of what must be a witch’s mark on their backs. The boys used to visit kind Martha Stechlin, the town midwife. Martha is jailed and will be tortured to make her confess to evil and name her confederates, because witches always work with other witches. In fact, some 70 years earlier, a local witch craze brought some 60 women to their deaths. Other disturbing events–the burning of a warehouse and the destruction of a new leper house–are attributed to the incarcerated Martha.

Martha’s immediate burning would be more than a convenient political expediency for the town’s aldermen–it would solve everything. That they know she is innocent is beside the point.

This work seamlessly merges brutality and compassion, and its elegant plot, appealing characters and satisfying conclusion will keep the reader wide awake and turning pages well into the night. —Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: Sympathetic characters and elegant plotting will draw the reader into the world of this novel set in 16th-century Germany and keep the pages turning well into the night.

Mariner , $18 trade paper, 9780547745015

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