Latest installment in the Hangman’s Daughter series by best-selling Bavarian phenom Pötzsch.
For those unfamiliar with the series, the setup is this: A Bavarian village is missing its executioner, since he’s departed the Alps to go wandering around the Europe of the Thirty Years War–era to serve the cause of justice. Said executioner, Jakob Kuisl—based on a historical figure, an ancestor of Pötzsch’s—works in a fraught landscape. As the story opens, a piratical bunch of mercenaries, some of them nastily French, are bumping around raping and pillaging: “They sold the booty to women who followed the army in wagons peddling goods, so the gang members always had money for food, drink, and whoring.” Such acts have consequences, not just in the diminishment of German fortunes, but also in the swelling of German wombs, and by the time Kuisl is swinging into action three decades later, there are new figures on the scene as a result. One of these is Kuisl’s daughter, who finds herself tasked with saving his bacon when off in the big city, and a plot unfolds that threatens not just to end his tenure at the gallows, but also to take down the German royals. Is the head bad guy a ghost? It takes us several hundred pages to chart a career trajectory “[f]rom a mangy mercenary to a respected raftmaster,” during which time there are a respectable number of thrills, spills and pools of blood on the tile. Whatever the case, that bad guy is very bad indeed, and to the very end he argues that legitimate rape is no rape at all. Think what you will of that proposition, there’s plenty of murder, fratricide, abortion and bad rye bread to go around.
Think The Name of the Rose meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and you’re part of the way there. A reasonably good historical thriller but without much that makes it stand out above a crowded field.