About the Book

The Hangman’s Daughter is an engrossing, richly detailed, historical mystery set in the Bavarian town of Schongau. Taking place in the mid-1600’s, the novel’s main character, Jakob Kuisl, is the town’s executioner and he  is forced to solve the mystery of who is killing the town’s children – who also happen to be orphans – before he must torture and ultimately kill Schongau’s midwife who he belives has been wrongly accused.

The dead children are turning up with a mysterious tattoo on their shoulders and the town leaders believe that witchcraft has once again arrived in Schongau.  Just 70 years earlier, Schongau town leaders condemned over sixty women to death for witchcraft.  While this might seem fictional, German rulers at this period were increasingly concerned and involved in rooting out witches in their towns and villages.  It was often midwives who were blamed for witchcraft and this novel is no different.  Martha Stechlin is Schongau’s midwife and also a favorite of the orphans – all of the murdered children were last seen with her.  Despite this, Kuisl and the town’s physician, Simon Fronwieser, believe that Martha is innocent and set out to prove the town’s leaders wrong.

The Hangman’s Daughter follows Kuisl and Fronwieser as they try to solve the mystery of the orphans’ deaths, save the midwife’s life, and stop a witch hunt.

– – Reviews – –


This novel has been popular in Germany since its 2008 publication there, and it’s easy to see why. Set in the mid-1600s in the Bavarian town of Schongau, it features a hangman, Jakob Kuisl, who is asked to find out whether an ominous tattoo found on a dying boy means that witchcraft has come to town. This is no idle fiction. The German rulers were, at the time, heavily involved in the detection, prosecution, and execution of suspect witches. Pötzsch, who is descended from the real-life Kuisl family, does an excellent job of telling the story and supplying the historical backdrop. And his characters—Jakob, the hangman; his daughter, Magdalena; and Simon, the physician’s son—are extremely well drawn and believable. Kudos, too, to translator Chadeayne, who retains the story’s German flavor while rendering the text in smooth and highly readable English. Readers of historical fiction should find this very much to their liking. –David Pitt

Oh, Yes She Did! Thoughts and Rants of a Free Thinker

This review of The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch with translation by Lee Chadeayne (Kindle eBook Dec 2010) is divided into two parts – the good and the bad.

First the good, Pötzsch did his homework. His attention to detail regarding 17th century German life transports the reader to that time with all its grittiness, smells, and rationales. Pötzsch tells the story of Jacob Kuisl of the real-life executioner Kuisls, a lineage of which Pötzsch is a direct descendent. Jacob, following in the footsteps of his fathers, is the executioner of Schongau, a small rural town in Bavaria. As Executioner, it is his duty to torture suspects until they confess their crimes and exact punishment up to and including death. This duty makes him such a feared man that the other townspeople say a prayer whenever they come in contact with him on the street. In private, however, these same townspeople visit his home in search of elixirs and balms to cure everything from rashes to sexual dysfunction. In addition to being Executioner, Jacob, a progressive thinker, is also an amateur chemist and developer of medicines. Read the full review here.

Briefly Noted: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

Oliver Pötzsch’s historical thriller is set in 17th century Schongau, a small town in Bavaria. This is a place where chamber pots are emptied into the streets, coffee is not served in inns like in Paris, and streets are not lighted. This not Istanbul or Amsterdam where there are layers of history, but a town which has parochial politics and social issues. Read the full review here.


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