Schongau, Bavaria, April 24, A.D. 1659--
Oliver Pötzsch’s The Hangman’s Daughter is a violent but well-written book.
A group of soldiers is killing the orphans of Schongau. The man who leads them seems to be the devil. One of his hands is stark white, made of bones.
Each child has the devil’s mark, an innocent chemical sign which causes these superstitious people to believe Satan has possessed the children. The children have been meeting with the midwife. The town’s people come to believe the midwife is a witch.
The hangman and his friend the doctor’s son don’t believe in witchcraft. They set out to prove the woman innocent. At the same time, town officials force the hangman to torture the midwife hoping to get her to confess.
In the course of the story, the hangman's daughter is among those kidnapped by the devil.
This book contains fairly explicit descriptions of the hangman's craft. It also describes the inner workings of small towns. The past impinges on the present. Groups struggle against one another. Money motivates much of what happens. The source of the evil is really in the town itself.
This is a clearly-written, and, in so far as I can tell, well-translated book. A long story, it is quick, interesting reading.
This book reflects the author’s heritage. His great-great-grandfather was a hangman. Pötzsch’s fictional hangman in story has Pötzsch’s great-great-grandfather’s name.
If violent books do not bother you, you might find this book to be a good one.
Lee Chadeayne translated this book into English.