Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the towns physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.
The author if this and subsequent books is descended from the largest clan of executioners in the history of Bavaria - the Kuisl dynasty - so a lot of his historical information was pulled from genealogy that his family had done over the years. It was very interesting to learn that town/city executioners were shunned by society, to the point that each family's children would be married to the children of executioners in other towns. Townsfolk would cross the street to avoid the executioner and his family members, they even went so far as to avoid speaking to them.
Mr Pötzsch did a good job in humanizing a man who might otherwise have been seen as a cruel monster. We know from the start that Jakob Kuisl has no real interest in being an executioner, or hangman, but does so because it's a job passed from father to son seemingly without end. That he drinks heavily both before and after a required execution showed, to me at least, that he detested his job despite being very good at it. Pötzsch also throws in a bit of irony in that most of the peasants of his town go to him for herbal/folk remedies for ailments rather than the learned doctor of the town.
Of course when you strip away the background of the main character, you could put the historical mystery that comes forth into just about any setting, but that didn't really take away from the story. There were characters to really like, such as Jakob's daughter Magdalena, and a handful of characters to detest like the burgomasters of the town and the murder himself, dubbed The Devil by the townsfolk.
I have an odd fascination with the superstitious nature of Eastern Europeans so for me this was a book well worth reading and I learned something about a class of people I'd never considered before.
Just wish I could figure out why Mr Pötzsch titled the book 'The Hangman's Daughter' as she's not exactly what one would consider a major character. She merely works with her father and her love interest to solve the crime.