This book was one of the first mysteries I have read in a long time that’s actually a mystery. I had no idea who the culprit was until the very end. That was a pleasant change, being eighty per cent through and still unsure of who was behind everything. The story is set in Poland, in a little town called Schongau. The village executioner, Jakob Kuisl, has always been a rather inquisitive person. He and his family are already regarded with apprehension because of his profession. It is considered to be a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Because of this, no one finds it strange when he begins to investigate the murders happening around town. He solves it eventually of course, and I must say that I was shocked at the ending.
The book is very well written. I wish it had been in English, not Polish, originally. For all I know, it’s a whole lot better in Polish, as things often get lost in the translation. Now the interesting thing is that the Kuisls were real people. They were also part of the author’s family. Potzsch heard stories about these particular ancestors all through his childhood. As an adult, he became more interested in genealogy which led to further research. He discovered that his family can be traced back to the late sixteenth century – possibly farther. Schongau was a real place, until the 1970’s, and the Kuisls were their hangmen. His family could almost be described as a dynasty they lasted so long. The Schongau Witch Trials are referenced throughout the book. Those actually happened.
None of this is to say that The Hangman’s Daughter is a historical text, it’s not. However, knowing that certain parts of the story are based in reality adds a whole other degree of creepy that I didn’t know existed. This book was excellent; I would highly recommend it.
Review by Wren, teen blogger