Oliver Pötzsch from Bavaria is part of a long line of hangmen. This book, his first, features Jakob Kuisl, town hangman and torturer in the mid 1500’s, and ancestor of Pötzsch.
The details of torture and herbal medicines of the time are well researched. I would assume that Pötzsch visited Schongau, since he lives 90 kilometers north in Munich. The ancient walls of the old city still exist, as well as a few buildings.
There are three main story lines which overlap. The main story involves a search for missing children before all of them are murdered by a mysterious man the townspeople came to call the Devil. The second story is of the midwife who was thrown into the keep, charged with witchcraft and the murders of the children. Kuisl believes she is innocent, but must torture her anyway. The third story line involves the growing relationship between the hangman’s daughter–Magdalena–and the young doctor–Simon.
I liked the book. It was a good read for me, but it does have some problems. Pötzsch did violate a couple of important rules for writing: too much repetition and not enough stress on the heroes. There were also many modern American idioms throughout the book that I suspect can be largely blamed on the translation.
Still, a good book.