Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Hangman's Daughter-Good Enough

After being sourly disillusioned by The Ludwig Conspiracy, I decided to give Oliver Potzsch's highly acclaimed series The Hangman's Daughter a try. It was better...somewhat. That's not a glowing recommendation, I know, but in truth some of the issues with the writing style I had to begin with are present even in these earlier works.

The foundation of the story is a mystery-there are deaths and disappearances, a local midwife accused of witchcraft, and the plot develops from there as Jakob Kuisl, Schongau's hangman, takes it upon himself to clear the midwife's name, digging deeper into a conspiracy that seems to be affecting every corner of the town. Over the course of his adventure, there are lots of interesting
characters. The local flavor of the villagers-their mean-spirited, simple-minded, superstitious natures-that Potzsch gets exactly right. So in that regard the setting works, the characters work, from the mains to the minors, and lots of interesting things happen along the way, that would make me recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction, or historical thrillers with a touch of the dark and supernatural. Yet there was something in the writing- the pacing, the language, I'm not quite sure what-that didn't allow the events of the narrative to hit me with all of their potential impact. Some indefinable aspect of the writing undermines the narrative tension. One brilliant exception to that is the traversing of a subterranean space at the end of the book (I won't say more b/c I don't want to spoil anything).

Schongau-it's quite Bavarian towns like this one that once upon a time
burned slews of "witches"

Much like my complaint about The Ludwig Conspiracy, the solution to the mystery is made too clear, too many times. It's like Potzsch doesn't give his readers any credit to make the simplest of conclusions. He suggests something, then implies it, then tells it, then recaps it, see? Too much. To top that all off, the resolution I was hit with over and over again was simply too simple. It was too easy, too convenient, and didn't live up to the complexity that the rest of the book had worked so hard to build. That was disappointing. I will most likely pick up the second issue of this series, but not for a long while-as long as it takes to forget that it's not all that the back copy makes it out to be.

K Rating: 7/10

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