My #10 Favorite read of 2013
An excellent historical fiction mystery. The background is German town in 1659. Our two major players are the intelligent and kind-hearted town hangman/torturer/street cleaner and a young, questioning Doctor with an inquisitive mind.
I am a bit of a Historical Fiction snob. Traditionally, it has been my favorite genre. When I read a new Historical Fiction, I have a hundred others to which it is compared. As a mystery, this book works exceptionally well. The story is unveiled just slow enough to keep you interested and the author seamlessly weaves multiple storylines throughout this compelling novel. The characters are delightfully nuanced and entertaining and the villains are equally interesting and colorful.
As a historical fiction novel, it is about a 4 of 5. The novel succeeds in painting a picture of the fears and prejudices of an earlier time. From the idea that torture will bring about a true confession, the seemingly ridiculous medical practices, to fear and panic that filled a town when a rumour of witchcraft started to spread. The fear of the townspeople was palpable and irrational conclusions they drew from any “ominous” happening in the town was insightful. The author clearly did his research.
Where the book was less successful was in making the reader feel as if he was in an ancient locale. At times, the mannerisms and speech was modern. Granted this was translated and it may have played a role in this opinion. Additionally, the author did not do enough to immerse you in the culture as it would have been. Elements of the culture were certainly present, from the ruling class, the “trials” to the use of a hangman. In the end, this was minor and did impact in a large way on my rating. As a side note, I do not understand why it is called the Hangman’s Daughter. While she was certainly a character, it was a minor role. That said, she was as entertaining as the rest.
I added this book to my To-Read pile quite some time ago when I heard the buzz for the book. It certainly lived up the buzz and it give it my highest recommendation.