The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

Reposting this 2013 review because the Kindle version is on sale for the month of April as part of the April $3.99 or less Sale.
Summary: Historical Fiction about a hangman and those around him in 1659 Germany.

The Hangman’s Daughter was one of Amazon’s early books that it directly published.  Now Amazon is a decent sized publisher.  But this seems an odd choice as one of its early books.

Oliver Potzsch wrote this book in German as a novel that is roughly about one of his actual ancestors.  Potzsch is a TV screen writer in Germany.  I have no idea how successful he is as a TV screen writer, but I guess it wasn’t a bad idea for Amazon to take a real writer from outside the US and publish him inside the US.

The story is intriguing.  In Germany in the 17th Century there were still town hangmen.  They were basically the rough equivalent to a town sherif.  But their job was to actually kill or torture prisoners.  They were not in charge of arresting people or in charge of security of the town.

I picked up the kindle book quite a while ago when it was free on a promotion, but I did not read it.  I ran across it again when it was on sale in a Kindle Daily Deal and realized that the audiobook was discounted to $1.99 because I had already purchased the kindle book.

So I bought the kindle book with promotional credit at Audible and listened to it.  The story isn’t bad as a mystery.  The Hangman, the young local doctor, and the Hangman’s daughter all try to find out why local children have been killed and try to prevent a midwife from being burned at the stake as a witch.

But this is where I am a bit mixed on the concept of historical fiction. I like accuracy in my historical fiction, but there is no real way of evaluating accuracy without a lot of background knowledge.  17th Century Germany is not one of the areas that I have a lot of background knowledge on.  As with most historical fiction I assume a lot of it is basically right.

But I can also see a lot of fiction in the story.  The good guys are mostly modern, reject superstition and embrace learning, women’s independence and human rights.  The bad guys mostly are against learning, embrace superstition and want to keep the poor and women out of any authority.  So I know the author is projecting back into history.  This is further complicated by the fact that it is the authors’ own family that he is writing about.

On the whole I liked the book once I was able to set aside my desire for historical accuracy.  It is a beach read mystery.  Nothing overly taxing, but basically enjoyable.

(I will say that I think the title is odd. The Hangman’s Daughter is clearly a significant character, but probably the fourth or fifth most important character in the book.)

The Hangman’s Daughter: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook (Kindle version is lendable.  Leave a comment below if you want to borrow it.)

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