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January 28, 2012

January Book Club: The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

In December, as we all drooled over our cookie swap spoils, we chose the January book by gathering a few of the suggested books from polls taken from our random book poll off our facebook page and reading the synopses. 

The murder mystery, The Hangman's Daughter, won the vote.
We all liked the idea of a which thriller.

Overview From Barnes and Noble

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 brings 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.

My Take:
This book was a top pick for 2011. It was a fast paced and very intriguing book. 
There were a lot of characters and I am very thankful for the character list in the front of the book. I hate when first and last names are used over and over again. It makes it hard to create a real emotional tie to the characters.
I wish the title of the book had been different. It is very misleading... The Hangman's daughter, Magdalena wasn't as significant int he story as the title of the book suggests... Don't get me wrong, she was an important part of it. Just not the focal point.
Even though I had my guesses about the murderer, I wasn't 100% sure until they reveled him... After it was revealed I was a little disappointed due to the lack of reason involved. It's hard to explain without spoiling it. 
I wanted more focus on Martha, the midwife accused of which craft. Maybe a little less on the little romance going on. 
I enjoyed seeing the realistic situation regarding the medicine of the time. 
I skipped over a lot when it came to the town's politics and meetings.
I also skimmed over little fights. Like the ones between the physician and his father as well as between the villains... They were totally not necessary.
I'm not even going to go into how all the smaller 'bad guys' blended together... They weren't very well characterized and there was not really any binding hatred for them that I could stir up enough to care about their part in the plot.
Really, all that I wanted to hear about was the kids, the hangman and the midwife.
I loved the idea of a town hangman whose morals, beliefs and need for truth rules over the cruelty of his trade.
It was good.

I'm giving it a 7 out of 10 because I appreciate and adore historical fiction... 
And it was really interesting.
I would recommend it as a casual read.

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