My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book! The history of Bavaria and the role of the hangman was fascinating. I have ancestors who came from this region and the names in the book were right out of my genealogy.
The story is about the hangman, Jakob Kuisl, his daughter, Magdalene, the young doctor and the people of Schongau. The job of hangman was hereditary and the daughter of a hangman would have to marry either another hangman or a butcher. Both occupations were outcasts and the families of these workers lived outside the gates of the city with the tanners.
This first book is about the deaths of some children which are immediately presumed to have been caused by witchcraft and the Court Court, Johann Lechner, determines that the midwife is guilty. Neither Jakob or the doctor believe she is guilty and the book is about finding the real criminal before the executioner will have to do his job and kill her.
One of the things that interested me was the brutality of the age and the panic which the threat of witchcraft posed. There was such a rush to judgement and pressure to hang the witch so that the city could get back to normal. Even when murders kept occurring after the midwife was in jail most town leaders just attributed the deaths to the power of the witch to command the devil.
The hangman was also a healer and the poorer people of the day came to him for herbal remedies. The young doctor realizes that doctors away from major cities had as little power as the midwives or healers. In the case of Jakob Kuisl, who had a number of books on the subject, he might have had more.
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