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.
"A blockbuster story . . . The plot is interesting and credible but above all the heroine is splendidly original . . . An extraordinary book." Literary Review
"What a cracking novel! I haven't read such a stunning thriller debut for years. The way Larsson interweaves his two stories had me in thrall from beginning to end. Brilliantly written and totally gripping." Minette Walters
"This is a striking novel, full of passion, an evocative sense of place and subtle insights into venal, corrupt minds . . . The journalist and the hacker are ingenious creations." The Observer
"A whip-smart heroine and a hunky guy who needs her help? This sexy, addictive thriller is everything you never knew you could get from a crime novel." Glamour
"The ballyhoo is fully justified . . . The novel scores on every front — character, story, atmosphere, and the translation." The Times
"As vivid as bloodstains on snow." Lee Child
"One of the greatest crime-fiction novels I have ever read . . . As mesmerizing as it is insightful. . . The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a multi-layered, multi-character tale by a writer of some considerable power. Full of social conscience and compassion, with insight into the nature of moral corruption, it knocked me out . . . Mikael Blomkvist and his partner, the enigmatic and deeply troubled Lisbeth Salander, will soon join the pantheon of greatest crime-fiction characters that populate the genre at its apex." Shots Magazine
"An absorbing and idiosyncratic crime novel." Daily Mail
"Mesmerizing. . . . Imagine the movies of Ingmar Bergman crossed with Thomas Harris's novel The Silence of the Lambs." USA Today
"Unique and fascinating. . . . It's like a blast of cold, fresh air to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Chicago Tribune
"As vivid as bloodstains on snow — and a perfect one-volume introduction to the unique strengths of Scandinavian crime fiction." Lee Child
"Larsson's novel could serve as the definition of page-turner . . . The worst part: We have to wait until summer '09 for the second installment." Time Out New York
"The biggest Swedish phenom since ABBA." People
"Crime fiction has seldom needed to salute and mourn such a stellar talent as Larsson's in the same breath." The Sunday Times
"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
An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pieced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
Inspector Sejer returns in this expertly crafted mystery about troubled teenagers—and two tragic deaths.
In the wake of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novels, readers are discovering the rich trove of modern Scandinavian crime fiction. If you’ve devoured the Millennium trilogy and are looking for your next read, Karin Fossum and her bone-chillingly bleak psychological thrillers have won the admiration of the likes of Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter (of Inspector Morse fame).
In Bad Intentions, the newest installment in the Inspector Sejer series since The Water’s Edge in 2009, Konrad Sejer must face down his memories and fears as he struggles to determine why the corpses of troubled young men keep surfacing in local lakes.
The first victim, Jon Moreno, was getting better. His psychiatrist said so, and so did his new friend at the hospital, Molly Gram, with her little-girl-lost looks. He was racked by a mysterious guilt that had driven him to a nervous breakdown one year earlier. But when he drowns in Dead Water Lake, Sejer hesitates to call it a suicide.
Then another corpse is found in a lake, a Vietnamese immigrant. And Sejer begins to feel his age weigh on him. Does he still have the strength to pursue the elusive explanations for human evil?
"An intimate study of broken lives that showcases Fossums poet past." —Bloomberg
In this chilling addition to the internationally best-selling Inspector Konrad Sejer series, the detective must face down his memories and fears as he investigates the deaths of two troubled young men. The first victim, Jon Moreno, was getting better after a mysterious guilt had driven him to a nervous breakdown one year earlier. His psychiatrist said so, as did his new friend at the hospital, Molly Gram, with her little-girl-lost looks. So when he drowns in Dead Water Lake, Sejer hesitates to call it a suicide.
Then the corpse of another young man is found, a Vietnamese immigrant. And Sejer begins to feel his age weigh on him. Does he still have the strength to pursue the elusive explanations for human evil? A harrowing, masterfully wrought mystery from the celebrated Karin Fossum.
“Fascinatingly readable and very cleverly done.” —Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse series
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
Stieg Larsson, who lived in Sweden, was the editor in chief of the magazine Expo and a leading expert on antidemocratic right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations. He died in 2004, shortly after delivering the manuscripts for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Reading Group Guide
1. Who do you consider the novel's protagonist, Lisbeth or Mikael? Why?
2. What point was Larsson trying to make with the themes running through this novel? How do issues such as violence against women, journalistic integrity, and more general notions of trust tie in with each other throughout the book?
3. What function do the sex-crime statistics on each section's title page serve?
4. Reread the passage from Mikael's book on page 103. What is its significance in terms of the plot?
5. On page 156, Henrik tells Mikael, "If there's one thing I've learned, it's never engage in a fight you're sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you're in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back." Over the course of the novel, who puts this advice to the best use? How, and why?
6. How does the involvement of several Vanger brothers with Swedish fascist groups cloud Mikael's investigation into Harriet's disappearance? What role does Harald play?
7. Why does Henrik become an investor in Millennium? Does his plan succeed?
8. Discuss the character of Lisbeth. Some think she is a "perfect victim" (p. 409), others find her intimidating, and Mikael wonders if she has Asperger's, but the reader is allowed to see exactly how her mind works. How do you see her? How do you think she sees herself?
9. What do you think about the way Lisbeth turns the tables on Bjurman? Is it admirable, or a sign that she's unstable?
10. On page 254, Lisbeth says her new tattoo is "a reminder." Of what?
11. Several times in the novel, Mikael's journalistic ethics are challenged. Do you consider him to be ethical? In your opinion, is anyone in the novel truly honorable? If so, why?
12. After reserving judgment for most of his investigation, Mikael determines that Harriet was, in fact, murdered and that he's hunting for a killer. What prompts this decision? How does this affect the rest of his investigation?
13. Discuss the role of parents in the novel. Who is a good parent, and why? How might Harriet's story have changed if her mother had behaved differently? What about Lisbeth's? Is Mikael a good father?
14. Blackmail is used several times in the novel, for different ends. Who uses it most effectively, and why?
15. On page 507, Mikael tells Lisbeth that to him, friendship requires mutual respect and trust. By those standards, who in this novel is a good friend? Is Mikael? What about Anita?
16. Discuss Henrik's request that Mikael never publish the Vanger story. Is it a reasonable request? Does Mikael's acquiescence change your opinion of him? Do Lisbeth's demands mitigate his ethical breach?
17. What ultimately drives Lisbeth to take action against Wennerström on her own? Does she go too far?
18. Reread Mikael's statement about the media's responsibility at the top of page 575. Can you think of a situation in the American media that is analogous to the Wennerström affair?
19. Discuss the ending. Was it satisfying to you? Why or why not?
“Wildly suspenseful . . . an intelligent, ingeniously plotted, utterly engrossing thriller.”
—The Washington Post
The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Stieg Larsson's extraordinary thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.