The Hangman's Daughter (Hangman's Daughter Series #1)

The Hangman's Daughter (Hangman's Daughter Series #1)

by Oliver Pötzsch


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The Hangman's Daughter (Hangman's Daughter Series #1) by Oliver Pötzsch

Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor to race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy. 

Taking us back in history to a place where autopsies were blasphemous, coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were the recommended remedy for the plague, and the devil was as real as anything, The Hangman’s Daughter is the rollicking start to an exciting new series of historical mysteries, bringing to cinematic life the sights, sounds, and smells of seventeenth-century Bavaria, telling the engrossing story of a compassionate hangman who will live on in readers’ imaginations long after they’ve put down the novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547745015
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/02/2011
Series: Hangman's Daughter Series , #1
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 97,404
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

OLIVER PÖTZSCH, born in 1970, has worked for years as a scriptwriter for Bavarian television. He is a descendant of one of Bavaria’s leading dynasties of executioners. Pötzsch lives in Munich with his family.

Lee Chadeayne is a former classical musician and college professor. He was one of the charter members of the American Literary Translators Association and is editor-in-chief of ALTA News.

Read an Excerpt

 OCTOBER 12, A.D. 1624

OCTOBER 12 WAS A GOOD DAY FOR A KILLING. It had rained all week, but on this Friday, after the church fair, our good Lord was in a kindlier mood. Though autumn had already come, the sun was shining brightly on that part of Bavaria they call the Pfaffenwinkel—the priests’ corner—and merry noise and laughter could be heard from the town. Drums rumbled, cymbals clanged, and somewhere a fiddle was playing. The aroma of deep-fried doughnuts and roasted meat drifted down to the foul-smelling tanners’ quarter. Yes, it was going to be a lovely execution.
 Jakob Kuisl was standing in the main room, which was bathed in light, trying to wake up his father. The bailiff had called on them twice already, and there was no way he’d be able to send him away a third time. The hangman of Schongau sat bent over, his head lying on a table and his long straggly hair floating in a puddle of beer and cheap brandy. He was snoring, and at times he made twitching movements in his sleep.
 Jakob bent down to his father’s ear. He smelled a mix of alcohol and sweat. The sweat of fear. His father always smelled like that before executions. A moderate drinker otherwise, he began to drink heavily as soon as the death sentence had been pronounced. He didn’t eat; he hardly talked. At night he often woke up screaming and drenched in perspiration. The two days immediately before the execution there was no use talking to him. Katharina, his wife, knew that and would move to her sister-inlaw’s with the children. Jakob, however, had to stay behind, as he was his father’s eldest son and apprentice.
 “We’ve got to go! The bailiff’s waiting.”
 Jakob whispered at first, then he talked louder, and by now he was screaming. Finally the snoring colossus stirred.
 Johannes Kuisl stared at his son with bloodshot eyes. His skin was the color of old, crusty bread dough; his black, straggly beard was still sticky with last night’s barley broth. He rubbed his face with his long, almost clawlike fi ngers. Then he rose to his full height of almost six feet. His huge body swayed, and it seemed for a moment that he’d fall over again. Then, however, Johannes Kuisl found his balance and stood up straight.
 Jakob handed his father his stained overcoat, the leather cape for his shoulders, and his gloves. Slowly the huge man got dressed and wiped the hair from his forehead. Then, without a word, he walked to the far end of the room. There, between the battered kitchen bench and the house altar with its crucifi x and dried roses, stood his hangman’s sword. It measured over two arm’s lengths and it had a short crossguard, and though it had no point, its edge was sharp enough to cut a hair in midair. No one could say how old it was. Father sharpened it regularly, and it sparkled in the sun as if it had been forged only yesterday. Before it was Johannes Kuisl’s, it had belonged to his father-in-law Jörg Abriel, and to his father and his grandfather before that. Someday, it would be Jakob’s.
 Outside the door the bailiff was waiting, a small, slight man who kept turning his head toward the town walls. They were late as it was, and some in the crowd were probably getting impatient now.
 “Get the wagon ready, Jakob.”
 His father’s voice was calm and deep. The crying and sobbing of last night had disappeared as if by magic.
 As Johannes Kuisl shoved his heavy frame through the low wooden doorway, the bailiff instinctively stepped back and crossed himself. Nobody in the town liked to meet the hangman. No wonder his house was outside the walls, in the tanners’ quarter. When the huge man came to the inn for wine, he sat alone at the table in silence. People avoided his eyes in the street. They said it meant bad luck, especially on execution days. The leather gloves he was wearing today would be burned after the execution.
 The hangman sat down on the bench in front of his house to enjoy the midday sun. Anyone seeing him now would hardly believe that he was the same man who had been deliriously babbling not an hour before. Johannes Kuisl had a good reputation as an executioner. Fast, strong, never hesitating. Nobody outside his family knew how much drink he used to down before executions. Now he had his eyes closed, as if he were listening to a distant tune. The noise from the town was still in the air. Music, laughter, a blackbird singing nearby. The sword was leaning against the bench, like a walking stick.
 “Remember the ropes,” the hangman called to his son without so much as opening his eyes.
 In the stable, which was built onto the house, Jakob harnessed the thin, bony horse and hitched it to the wagon. Yesterday he had spent hours scrubbing the two-wheeled vehicle. Now he realized that it had all been in vain. Dirt and blood were eating into the wood. Jakob threw some straw on the filthiest spots, then the wagon was ready for the big day. 

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Readers who like a plot-driven story with identifiable heroes and villains will be drawn to this ambitious novel. And unlike some stories in the genre, The Hangman’s Daughter  only gets better as the climax approaches — an exciting duel between the hangman and his nemesis. It truly delivers the thing so many of us look for in our novels: entertainment." —BookPage

 "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." — Shelf Awareness for Readers

"The translator has done very well by the author; both setting and characters are vividly drawn, making for a compelling read . . . Based on the author's research into his own family history, this novel offers a rare glimpse into a less commonly seen historical setting. If you liked Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, give this a try." —Library Journal Xpress

"[Pötzsch's] novel reads quite vividly . . . Based on the author’s family history, this excellent story brings 17th-century Bavaria alive with all its fears, superstitions and politics. Jacob Kuisl is not your ordinary hangman, and readers will root for him and his search for the truth. There’s enough 'unreality' in the evil of superstitions that this novel may appeal to fantasy readers, and the twists and turns of the plot will appeal to mystery fans."—School Library Journal

"A brilliantly-researched and exciting story of a formative era of history when witches were hunted and the inquisitors had little belief in their methods beyond their effect in pacifying superstitious townspeople . . . Pötzsch, actually descended from a line of hangmen, delivers a fantastically fast-paced read, rife with details on the social and power structures in the town as well as dichotomy between university medicine and the traditional remedies, which are skillfully communicated through character interactions, particularly that of Magdalena and Simon. The shocking motivations from unlikely players provide for a twist that will leave readers admiring this complex tale from a talented new voice." —Publishers Weekly "This novel has been popular in Germany since its 2008 publication there, and it’s easy to see why . . . [Pötzsch] does an excellent job of telling the story and supplying the historical backdrop. And his characters . . . are extremely well drawn and believable. Kudos, too, to translator Chadeayne, who retains the story’s German flavor while rendering the text in smooth and highly readable English. Readers of historical fiction should find this very much to their liking." —Booklist  "I loved every page, character and plot twist of The Hangman’s Daughter, an inventive historical novel about a 17th-century hangman’s quest to save a witch—from himself." —Scott Turow

Customer Reviews

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Hangman's Daughter 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
TheFourthMusketeer More than 1 year ago
This book is so good. Even though it deals with a somewhat dark subject, a hangman, it isn't overly gruesome. A great mystery that you won't be able to put down. You get swept up in the era and with the characters. It was really well written and researched. It is also really cool that the author has a personal connection to the actual people the story is based on. I highly recommend this book! Es ist sehr gut!
amt1010 More than 1 year ago
At first I thought this book was going to be about vampires and demons, but it wasn't at all. It's a great murder mystery and a fast read. The characters are very likeable and I love the time period. Great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The published, positive reviews of the book enticed me into making the purchase. Four months later, I finally opened the book and WOW I could not put it down!! The book took several days/nights to read (because of my busy work schedule) and let me tell you that when my co-workers told me I looked tired, yes I did because I simply couldn't put this book down at night when I should have been sleeping for work the next day. I'm not quite sure what it was exactly that made this book a superb read for me. I mean, from the moment I dove into the story, the decscriptive details pulled at me. The story line keep moving at a momentum that was not too fast, but fast enough to keep my interest and make me want to devour more. Obviously, the writer has performed his due diligence in researching much of the subject matter. I guess that's one thing that intriqued me...reading about a time in history that I am unfamiliar with, yet the emotions of the characters were just as current and vivid as if they existed today. I felt connected to the hangman, and his daughter, and the young doctor, and the children. The suspense kept me wondering all the way until the "secret" was revealed. I had no idea. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind losing sleep because you simply cannot put the book down!
Chele111 More than 1 year ago
This book is not available for the Nook, but I did not mind purchasing it. The title caught my attention. I glanced through the pages and liked what I read so I decided to purchase the book. The book kept me intrigued and interested with the characters and what was really going on. The character's you can completely come to like and automatically want to know more about. However, towards the end, starting with page 300 I thought the author dragged out the ending, like trying to fill in space with "just words" . It is a wonderful book to read and he really did not need to drag the ending out.well, more like the tunnel scene. Additionally, the title I'm still left with to guess why the author entitled the book "The Hangman's Daughter". I think it should have been more appropriately titled "The Hangman's Tale". The title was misleading. I was always left thinking, what about the Hangman's Daughter? Other then that it was a good book.
Lizbiz5396 More than 1 year ago
I am surprised this book doesn't have a higher rating. This book is amazing! If you like historical fiction, I think you'll definitely like this novel. This book is so well written. I could not put it down. It is a real page turner! I look forward to reading all of Jakob Kuisl's future adventures! Oliver Pötzsch is my newest favorite author.
LEHN More than 1 year ago
The historical aspect of this novel is amazing. I personally felt like it was a very accurate portrayal of life in this time period, with the grittiness, suspicions and the descriptions of the town. As interesting as all that is, the actual story and content of this book are really lacking. First, it's called THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER. Why? Beats me. She is a secondary character at best. Why not call it The Hangman, since he is the MAIN CHARACTER. Also, it sounds way more ominous, which I have to imagine is what Oliver was going for. Also — and this was the worst thing about the book for me, as I had been reading John Harwood and was hoping for a nice mystery that would really reveal itself only at the end — the "whodunit" is pretty obvious about halfway through the book. If you do decide to read this book, just pay attention and you'll see. I continued reading thinking it was a misdirect and there was no way it could be that obvious. Well, imagine my disappointment when in fact it was that obvious. Of course, it's not all Oliver's fault. I bought the book at an airport, and we should all know better.
bobbles2034 More than 1 year ago
At first I was reluctant to read this mainly based off the fact the cover didn't grab my attention right away and neither did the description, but my mom suggested it after she read it. She couldn't put the book down! When I started reading it, I thought "what did i get myself into?". This is not my normal book I usually pick up and read, and so I, in a way, was waiting for the book to be dry or just not entertaining enough, but wow! did i judge this book wrong! The more you read through the book it has a very additive quality where you just want to keep reading until the next chapter. The half way point of the this book is really what sold me. There are some big events (of course) and the story is set up real nice. Plus to make the story even better there's a side love story <3 SOLD! :] I would say there are 3 main characters, each which are very interesting people that you really start to love. My particular favorite, of course, is Magdalena because she is the rebellious, strong female type and considering this story is set in the 1600's I really enjoyed her character. The last few chapters for the book, the plot really gets to the point where you just need to KNOW what happens, i could not put the book down!
Wrighting4Fun More than 1 year ago
I read Hangman's Daughter earlier this year, and ff you are a fan of Umberto Eco's NAME OF THE ROSE or Josephine Tey's DAUGHTER OF TIME, then this book is right up your alley. The aspect of the author writing about a true historical figure that was also an ancestor was really interesting to me, and he did a great job bringing these characters to life. Am I really interested in the goings of of 17th century Bavaria? Not really, but I did enjoy the visit the author took me on. Some parts were kind on lengthy and perhaps superfluous, but that could just be my own American tastes--the book is translated (very well) from German. A nice read that kept me guessing to the end. The sequel had an interesting plot, but it was very reminiscent of Dan Brown--a group of Monks were after the Ultimate Templar treasure, a treasure that, once found, will change the course of the world. It takes place a few months after HD, in the winter, and the setting is finely integrated with the plot. The characters have changed, however. Simon isn't nearly as much of a dandy as he was in the first book, and I kind of missed that. The Hangman still knows everything, but he doesn't have that mysterious air he did previously. The novel was more thoroughly cleansed of inconsistencies, for which I am grateful for, but I missed all the same (it's like playing Where's Waldo with literature. Were bales of hay available before 1800? Nope, there were only haystacks...yet they are in the novel...). Still, it is an entertaining series that gets your brain moving, your blood pumping, and the villains are sadistically villainous. I will read on with this series because I know I'll be getting my money's worth of entertainment.
hope4acure10 More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be quite enjoyable and couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bntyle01 More than 1 year ago
This book is set in the 1600's. It follows the hangman and a local physician (the son of the town doctor but he practices medicine as well). It begins a little weird as it introduces you to different characters rather than immediately beginning the story, but as you read the book it makes more sense. The story begins really with a death of a young boy. A local woman is accused of being a witch and killing the young boy. These two men will work to find the truth. Is this really an incident of witchcraft or is there something else going on in the town. Time is against them as they struggle to uncover the truth as the town leaders are afraid that it will lead to another outbreak of women being accused and murdered because they are believed to be witches. The town is a small town and gossip and paranoia spreads quickly. I actually really enjoyed this book and will read the authors other books, however I rated three stars (Wish could add 1/2 star) because I do not enjoy long books. I felt that this book could have been 200 pages shorter and lost nothing. I would definitely recommend this book to others especially if you enjoy reading books about the Salem Witch trials or similar books.
JCD2 More than 1 year ago
This was an unusual story with a backdrop of the 1600's in Germany.  Children were being murdered, a mid-wife was accused of sorcery and the hangman and his family as well as a young physician try to solve these cases while dealing with superstition and bureaucracy.  This was an interesting story, destined to become great.  But somewhere in the last 30% of the book, the story fell apart.  It became predictable yet beyond belief.  This could have been great, but it wasn't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tara_H More than 1 year ago
Interesting story, but a little dull....I had a hard time getting through it until the end it finally picked up a bit. Good summer read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series. Oliver Potzsch is an amazing author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series. This book is not my favorite of the series however it is very good. I enjoy reading about life in the 17th century in a different country. These books have opened my eyes to life as a hangman or for that matter as a person living in a different culture. The story lines are always very suspenseful and the characters colorful. If you enjoy historical fiction with a who done it twist. You will enjoy this writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though at first I was concerned I would have difficulty keeping separate the foreign names and following the intricacies of 17th-century Bavarian village life, I was soon so engaged I couldn't put the book down. My fears were unfounded, since the book is actually quite easy to follow and helped along by a list of characters one can easily refer back to. The protagonists are fleshed out so well I soon forgot they are characters in a book. Pötzsch has a wonderful way of making a socially despised executioner a lovable, intelligent character. The story is an intriguing mystery with a hint of the supernatural, and I found myself wondering at one point if there was a human culprit or an actual devil behind the crimes. The fact that the lines between reality and the supernatural are a little hazy only adds to the appeal of the book. Since finishing it two days ago I have already ordered the next two books in the series. Well worth a read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The_Alternative More than 1 year ago
Book Review - The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch The Hangman’s Daughter  Oliver Pötzsch  Kindle Version  Publisher: AmazonCrossing  Publication Date: December 7, 2010  Source ISBN: 054774501X  Print Length: 448 pages      A murder mystery set in 17th Century Bavaria told from the perspective of an executioner? How creative is that? Yes, I understand that Oliver Pötzsch gleaned a lot of this story from his own genealogical background, but still… I love all the originality that came out of his family history research. Believe me when I tell you that most family history study is rather boring (dates and names and full of dull farmers and peasants and such) so a truly original idea stemming from that exploration is extremely interesting to me. Had he only written this one book I might have attributed it to a flash-in-the-pan but interesting. That Pötzsch was able to add to the story for an additional three more books is an amazing accomplishment.      The Hangman’s Daughter is a dark and grisly tale told from the viewpoint of Jacob Kuisl, the local Hangman, who is not at all like what executioners have been portrayed in film and fiction over the years. Kuisl is not a cold, heartless killer hiding behind a mask. He’s a real, loving, caring person that understands his role as village executioner and sets out to complete his every duty to keep his family in beets and mutton. But Jacob is also a kind-hearted, compassionate, and logical-minded man that understands the harsh realities of the world he lives in even if he has to break a few noses to get to the truth. And the tortures and executions he must commit in the name of the village leaders are sometimes burdens he has difficulty shouldering, especially when he doesn’t agree with the judgments handed down by the town burghers. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it puts Kuisl in a precarious situation. Like when the midwife that delivered his children is accused of witchcraft.      I think that the logical, caring, scientific man behind the mask is the main reason this story worked for me. Yes, you could argue that the language or phrases could not have come from the 17th Century (but really, what fun would that read be?) You could also argue that there’s too much implied violence here (especially the torture of a witch and the murder of children) but the sad reality is that the world was a very cruel place when this fictional account happened and Pötzsch does an excellent job of setting the tone for his historic scenes, which is another reason I rated this story high. But the main reason I enjoyed this story so much was that I valued the characters. The Hangman with a secret heart of gold and a fist of fury, his daughter, Magdalena, trapped by circumstance of birth to marry an executioner herself and filled with melancholy and stubbornness because of it, the town doctor’s son, Simon, a new physician himself, who despises the old medicinal practices of blood letting and purging, and the accused witch who is nothing more than an innocent midwife with a few herbal remedies made The Hangman’s Daughter a very enjoyable read. The character development was beautifully paced and the antagonist cleverly conceived and I began to care about the characters very quickly; a sure sign of a well-written story to me.      The Hangman’s Daughter was a comparatively quick read for me and I enjoyed every moment of it very much. As a matter of fact, I appreciated The Hangman’s Daughter so much that I purchased the Kindle versions of the other two available books in the series, The Dark Monk and The Beggar King and pre-ordered the forth-coming fourth book in the series The Poisoned Pilgrim, due out later this year.      File with: Historical fiction, murder mystery, Jesse Bullington, horror, history, executioners, Ellis Peters, hangmen, and witchcraft. 5 out of 5 stars The Alternative  Southeast Wisconsin Additional Reading: Hangman's Daughter Series 1. The Hangman's Daughter (2010)  2. The Dark Monk (2012)  3. The Beggar King (2012)  4. The Poisoned Pilgrim (2013)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Loved the character 's.
Shahji More than 1 year ago
This has unexpectedly turned out to be a nice book. Further i admit that i would have loved it if i was in my teens. The story is about a hangman named Jakob Kuisl who lives in a village located somewhere in Germany during 1660s. A young boy and then two more children are killed and Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether some witchcraft is at play. Alongwith that some other mysterious incidents start happening in the village threatening it's peace. Jakob is helped by his daughter and local physician's son in this quest of finding the truth. Well i am going to reveal only that much. You have to read the book to find out what happens in the end. I have seen this book shelved under "historical fiction" at many places, but i think the plot is not much related to any significant historical events except that the story takes place in certain historical era. I would categorize the book as mystery or thriller. This is first book by Oliver Potzch and there are three more in the series, including one recent publication. One other interesting thing is that the writer claims to be descendant of long line of hangmen known as Kuisls and was inspired by his geneology to write this novel. As far as the rest of series is concerned i am not sure if i am going to finish it or not. But i am going to read atleast the next book in the series though not very soon. If you like historical fiction or murder mysteries/thriller, then i think you will probably like this book. Please let me know about your thoughts after reading my review and of course the book.
Chris85CJ More than 1 year ago
I liked this book, but of course it is historical fiction which I love. I question some of the events or language that would h ave been used in the late 1600s, but that's okay. You will have to read it to find out if THE WITCH BURNED!!! Makes me want to watch the clip of Monty Python's History of the World for the one millionth time "But how do you know she is a witch?" "Cause, she look like one!" On my that is such a funny scene for a really horrible time in the world's history.