Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch was a wondrful look at life in small town Bavaria during the 17th century. The main character, a hangman descended from a line of hangmen named Jakob Kuisl, is kind hearted, common sensed, and hard working. He is intelligent and views his profession with a sense of realism. He privately struggles with the demons of his trade by drinking heavily in private. When he isn't torturing a suspected criminal for a confession or executing the convicted he is a healer of sorts creating potions and medicines cheaper than the town doctor. 

Jakob works with the son of the town doctor, Simon, a school educate doctor (albeit not graduated) unlike his father who never went to university to study medicine. The pair work together to solve the murder of children and prove the local midwife is falsely accused of both the murders and of wichcraft.

The title of the book comes from Jakob's daughter, Magdalena, who is a midwife in training but is stubborn like her father. She and Simon have an unapproved, discouraged, courtship as hangmen families are pariah. Much like her father Magdalena views the world in a practical sense and doesn't get caught up in hysteria. She provides the bridge between the two heroes and aids when she can.

In the end the Magdalena is abducted by the villain to force Jakob to find answers. The tale spins around old views, class struggles, and a town living more in the past than moving to the future. The town elders want a witches confession retrieved by the hangman before the Count's secretary arrives and the hangman isfighting against time to learn the truth.   

While many people found parts of the book tedious and some of the language out of place I lovedthe immersion into Bavarian culture of the time wonderful. Onto The Dark Monk, thenext book in the Series!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie

Ruth Downie once again lead me on a wonderful trip through Roman Britain. Her description of life during this era is simply wonderful. The main character, Ruso, volunteers to join an expidition north towards the eventual line of a finished Hadrian's Wall and again finds himself looking into another odd murder. Along the way his housekeeper, a native he calls Tilla, rediscovers her native people and an old lover. Ruso, Tilla, and a host of Romans and Britains all spin in circles either looking for or trying to hide the truth of the murder. Meanwhile Tilla's rediscovery of her people, her childhood home, and her less than scrupulous uncle  cause mixed feelings and come between Tilla and Ruso. Murder, marriage, and a clash of cultures continue in this wonderful story by an outstanding author.