Forget witchcraft - real evil is much darker in old Bavaria

Forget witchcraft - real evil is much darker in old Bavaria


Hangman Daughter Book_L
Photo: Amazon Crossing
The Hangman's Daughter
By Oliver Potzsch
Published by Amazon Crossing
ISBN 978 1611090611

For young adult readers who love a thrilling story with believable heroes and villains and a wonderfully cinematic setting, The Hangman's Daughter is quite a find. Set in 17th-century Bavaria, this excellent historical thriller never seems to run out of steam. As the plot hurtles towards its conclusion, the novel gets better and better.

Oliver Potzsch sets his tale in a dark land riddled with superstition, black magic and fear. The Thirty Years' War is over, and it looks as if the people of Bavaria are ready to pick up the pieces and move forwards. But one fear hangs over the towns and villages like no other. The war has not destroyed the power that witches have held over the population for centuries. Each village is trying to purge the community of witchcraft, but this is no easy task.

Jakob Kuisl is the hangman in the small town of Schongau, and it is part of his job to execute anyone found guilty of being a witch. Witches here are not of the Harry Potter variety: they are evil women intent on performing the blackest of magic and doing the Devil's work.

When the story begins, Schongau has been free from witches for some time. But one day, the body of a boy marked with a witch's tattoo is pulled out of the river. Hysteria spreads around the town like wild fire, and a terrifying witch hunt begins.

The prime suspect is local midwife Martha Stechlin. As Walpurgisnacht, the night when witches reveal themselves and dance in the woods, approaches, another tattooed child is found dead. Then more children start to disappear. Martha is taken into custody, and the citizens demand her execution.

But Jakob is convinced that the poor midwife is innocent. How can a kindly woman who has delivered most of the town's children suddenly turn into a murderess who wants to kill them? Jakob turns detective to get to the bottom of the fear that is gripping his town.

Along with his daughter Magdalena, and Simon, a young doctor who doesn't believe in witchcraft, Jakob determines to discover the truth. Soon, the three of them must face a very real and terrifying enemy.

The twists and turns of the plot and the cinematic setting make this a stand-out novel. This book has been an unexpected young adult hit in Germany, and it's easy to see why.

Contains scenes of violence and adult themes.

John Millen can be contacted on



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