The Beggar King

This is the third in the Hangman’s Daughter series. The hangman, Jakob Kuisl of Schongau, an alpine village, received a letter that his younger sister was near to dying in Regensburg. It is today a city of 160,000 but in 1662 it was closer to 11,000. Luckily, the Allied bombing in WWII never touched the ancient city. It is today the best-preserved medieval city in Germany.

Speaking of wars, the motivation for part of what happened in this story occurred during the Thirty Years War. Kuisl was a sergeant in that war and tried to forget the horrors. For you history buffs, that was the first major war between Protestants and Catholics. About eight million people died from 1618 to 1648.

Kuisl left his village to try to save his sister’s life. When he entered their home, he found his sister and her husband with throats slit. Before he could even react guards arrested him for murder.

In those days, a person could be found guilty (in less than an hour) but could not be executed until the person confessed. The job of the hangman was to extract that confession with torture. So, in this book we have one hangman torturing another hangman.

Meanwhile, in Schongau, Magdalena Kusil and her sweetums, Simon Fronwieser, son of the town doctor, are nearly killed when they are found being ‘friendly’. They run away and end up in Regensburg where they embroil themselves in the plots and counterplots that put her father in prison in the first place.

If you get the plot all figured out before the three-quarter mark you are well ahead of me. It is complex.

It is a good read, much better than the second book and more complex than either of the first two. Oliver Potzsch is himself a descendent of a hangman.

Mike Lawrence

Terra Incognita

I reviewed Downie’s first book, Medicus, here. This second in the series has less humor and more mystery. It is still a good read. Downie has presented both the Roman and Briton worlds fairly.

In this story, Doctor Ruso and his slave, Tilla, have joined 170 soldiers of the XX Legion on an excursion to the northern outpost town of Coria in part to prepare the way for a visit by the Roman Governor. The small fort there is manned by men of the X Legion, all of whom are from the north of Gaul and speak Latin with a German accent.

Tilla’s home is near Coria, or was until another tribe killed her parents and burned their house, carrying her into captivity. Ruso hoped the short trip would give her a chance to see friends and family before returning Deva.

Ruso is pressed into service as the fort’s doctor because Doctor Thessalus has gone mad and has confessed to the murder of a soldier.

In short, Ruso steps into deep dodo again.

Mike Lawrence