Summary [from Goodreads]:
Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman's Daughter--the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch--a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.
I was in one of my book-hunting urges in Booksale when a friend of mine shoved this sinister-looking book into my hands. “Buy that,” she commanded. She had not read it before, pretty sure she didn’t know it existed before, just basically threw it at me. Turning the paperback so it faced me...it was attraction at first sight.
The black against the alabaster background, its Gothic lettering, and the title. “The Hangman’s Daughter,” it read. Oh, have you ever known a more appetisingly macabre title of a book? I looked up to my find my friend grinning at me. “She’s in love,” she announced. I paved my way to the counter and presented the book with a flourish. Walking out of the bookstore with my proud purchase [of ₱45.00, ha!], I was in cloud nine. Unfortunately, this was shortly before my one-year hiatus. When I found this book again in my pile of The Unread, I was more than ready to take a peek.
The Hangman’s Daughter is about some time after the age of witchery where fear still lingers and jumps at the slight mention of an unusual. Jakob Kuisl is the perfect hangman. He is tall, strong, and very very scary. But when he is not busy killing people, he sells medicine. [Go figure.] He is kind, intelligent, and a good husband and father.
Enter Simon Fronwieser, the son of the town physician and soon-to-be- doctor himself. He is the perfect sidekick. He is smart, admires the hangman, loves to read books and often borrows from the former, and is hopelessly in love with Magdalena a.k.a The Hangman’s Daughter. If he were born in today’s era, he would have been your typical nerdy seatmate who’s a bit awkward to talk to at first but is actually an interesting and brave person you will come to admire later. And he loves coffee!!! [Back when coffee used to be an exotic drink, wow.]
Together, the hangman and the physician’s son—the unlikely pair—solve the mysteries that are threatening the fragile peace of their town.
Two characters I admire here are Johann Lechner, the court clerk, and Jakob Schreevogl, a young alderman who recently replaced his father in the town council. They are both steadfast in their own ways. Lechner, who strives for peace at no matter what cost, you may hate because of his methods but his loves his town very much. And Schreevogl, whose unique and fresh insight that he brought in the council was often a cause for unrest within it, never wavered in his belief that Martha Stechlin was innocent despite the lack of evidence.
The only problem I have with the book is that...it was, in fact, not about the “hangman’s daughter”. Magdalena was a very headstrong, clever, and fierce young woman but she was neither the subject nor the object of the story. She was made the title character but was soon cast to help from the sidelines while her father and her suitor solved the case. Don’t get me wrong. Simon is my favourite character in it, but I don’t see why it’s called “The Hangman’s Daughter” if it was not about Magdalena. Or, rather, was the point of the story about how the sly daughter gave in the right key points that helped them? If so, I would’ve liked to see more focus on that.
Despite the confusion the title brought, it was, overall, a delicious read. It was jam-packed with adventures and heart-stopping moments that I sometimes had to pause to catch my breath, and mutter, “Oh my gods, oh my gods, oh my gods.”
If you’re into the tales of old, folk legends, and Gothic feel, I recommend The Hangman’s Daughter.