I don’t know why you title your book The Hangman’s Daughter and then make the main character the hangman, but that’s what happened here. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but every time the daughter appeared, I got my Nancy Drew on and combed the pages for clues, because, surely, as the titular character, something about her must be the key to this murder mystery. That was not the case.
A bit about hangmen in the 1600s: Jakob Kuisl, the hangman in our story, was actually a real person. Potzsch, the author, is actually a descendant of the Kuisl hangmen clan. (Which also makes it a bit hard to critique the book, even though it’s fiction, because I feel like I’m insulting his dead ancestors.) Hangmen not only took care of a town’s hangings, they were also town janitors, town torturers and sometimes the town’s doctor, since executions and torture gets you intimately familiar with the human body.
Anything unknown or involving uppity women was immediately thought of as witchcraft in this time period. So when a child is murdered and is revealed to have an alchemy sign tattooed on his back, the town immediately assumes the old lady who’s nice to the town orphans must be a witch because….she’s old? Kuisl and the young physician, Simon, disagree, but what can a hangman and the town quack doctor (Simon believes that tiny, invisible to the eye organisms are the cause of disease, that idiot) do? More orphans begin to turn up missing or dead. There’s a lot of small German town politics of the 1600s that went a bit over my head. Towards the end, the Scooby Do-esque plot is stopped by that meddling hangman and OF COURSE the hired mercenary that’s been killing children on command is also revealed to be a sociopath who just likes killing people. Have I mentioned how sick I am of sociopath murderers?
My major quibble with this book, aside from my major quibble about the misleading title, is that I’m not sure if the writing is just mediocre or if that’s the result of going through a translation (the book was originally written in German). It’s not that’s bad or grammatically incorrect, it’s just that the best adjective to describing the writing style is…serviceable.