Synopses & Reviews
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 hangmans son—except that the town physicians son is hopelessly in love with her. And her fathers wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years War has finally ended, and there hasnt 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 doctors 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 Hangmans 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 theyve put down the novel.
"May well be the best 'historical mystery' ever written." The Sunday Boston Globe
"It is 1663, and England is wracked with intrigue and civil strife. When an Oxford don is murdered, it seems at first that the incident can have nothing to do with great matters of church and state....Yet, little is as it seems in this gripping novel, which dramatizes the ways in which witnesses can see the same events yet remember them falsely. Each of four narrators a Venetian medical student, a young man intent on proving his late father innocent of treason, a cryptographer, and an archivist fingers a different culprit...an erudite and entertaining tour de force." People
"Successful literary thrillers in the mold of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose are the stuff of a publisher's dreams, and in Pears' novel they may have found a near-perfect example of the genre...Pears, with a painstaking, almost forensic attention to detail, constructs his world like a master painter..." New York Times
"Fascinating...quite extraordinary...elevates the murder mystery to the category of high art." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Brings not merely a huge cast of characters but a whole century vividly to life." Newsweek
"Riverhead is marketing the hell out of historian Iain Pears' first novel, An Instance of the Fingerpost, and the media seems turned on by the hype you'd almost believe this was 'the literary thriller of the year.' Don't be surprised if midway through this sprawling and seemingly endless tome, however, you feel like suing the publishers (and certain critics) for fraud. If this book is a thriller, then I'm Edgar Allan Poe." Daniel Reitz, Salon
"A near-perfect example of the genre." Andrew Miller, The New York Times Book Review
"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 Hangmans 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 authors 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. Theres 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 its 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 storys 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 Hangmans Daughter, an inventive historical novel about a 17th-century hangmans quest to save a witch—from himself." —Scott Turow
We are in Oxford in the 1660s a time, and place, of great intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment. Robert Grove, a fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear about the events surrounding his death from four witnesses: Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; Jack Prescott, the son of a supposed traitor to the Royalist cause determined to vindicate his father; John Wallis, chief cryptographer to both Cromwell and Charles II, a mathematician, theologican and inveterate plotter; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each witness tells their version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.
An Instance of the Fingerpost is a magnificent tour de force: an utterly compelling historical mystery story with a plot that twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.
In England of the 1660s, a young woman is accused of the murder of a New College fellow, who has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Four extremely diverse witnesses give their accounts of the events but only one reveals the extraordinary truth.
In 1663 Oxford, a servant girl confesses to a murder. But four witnesses--a medical student, the son of a traitor, a cryptographer, and an archivist--each finger a different culprit...
Set in the mid-1600s in the Bavarian town of Schongau, a hangman, Jakob Kuisl, is asked to find out whether an ominous tattoo found on a dying boy means that witchcraft has come to town.
About the Author
Iain Pears is the author of the New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost and the national bestseller The Dream of Scipio, as well as a series of acclaimed detective novels, a book of art history, and countless articles on artistic, financial, and historical subjects.