The Hangman’s Daughter


Author: Oliver Potzsch

Title: The Hangman’s Daughter

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Publication Date: Published in Germany in 2008. Translated into English by Lee Chadeayne in 2010.

Number of Pages: 435

Geographical Setting: Bavaria (Modern-day Germany)

Time Period: 17th Century

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In a small town in 17th century Bavaria, children are being murdered. Adding to the town’s panic, signs of witchcraft are found on each of the victims. With marauding soldiers left over from the Thirty Years’ War roaming the countryside and faced with the danger of famine or poverty from a bad crop year, the town council just wants this problem to go away. The town’s midwife, Martha Stechlin, is quickly arrested on suspicion of witchcraft and murder. Jakob Kuisl, as town executioner, is forced to torture Martha to make her confess to the murders. Jakob does not believe that Martha is either the murderer or a witch and finds himself with just days to find out who is really killing the children. With the help of his daughter, Magdalena and Simon, the town’s young doctor, who is also in love with Magdalena, Jakob, sets out on the dangerous mission of proving Martha’s innocence.

Subject Headings: Executioners, Witchcraft, Midwives, Bavaria, Thirty Years’ War

Appeal: Engrossing, Builds in intensity, Atmospheric, Dark, Suspenseful, Plot-driven, Well-drawn characters, Violent, Investigative, Historical details, Small-town, Well-researched

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Dark, Suspenseful, Historical details

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1) The History of Torture by Daniel P. Mannix. Readers can learn all they want to know about this gruesome aspect of human history.

2) Witchcraft: A History (Dark Histories Series) by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart. This is a scholarly yet readable look at witchcraft from Roman times to the present.

3) The Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648 (Essential Histories Series) by Richard Bonney. This book explains why the Thirty Years’ War was a turning point in the development of warfare and looks at the especially devastating effects of the war on civilians.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. Set in the twelfth century, this historical mystery is about a female medical student from Italy who comes to England to investigate the deaths of four children.

2) The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Though written in a challenging literary style, this historical mystery set in a medieval Italian monastery would appeal to fans of The Hangman’s Daughter.

3) The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry. This is a stand-alone historical mystery set in 13th-century Constantinople at the beginning of a Crusade.

Name: Elizabeth Allen

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