The Hangman's Daughter is a tale depicting a superstitious town with criminal activity . At the heart of the story is Jakob Kuisl and the life being the town hangman, a way of life that had been unwillingly inherited. It all starts with meeting Jakob as a young man attending a hanging where his father is forced to decapitate a criminal; the moment Jakob fails to impress his father via a misdemeanor in following instructions, he realizes that being a hangman is not an ideal lifestyle and joins the military.
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Then the story follows Jakob's adulthood and his family which consists of a wife, Anna Maria, and his three children; Magdalena is the eldest daughter, Georg and Barbara are youngest and twins. Simon Fronwieser, the university-educated son of the town's physician, is also a main figure in Jakob's life. It is between Simon and his father, the difference in medical theories and practices, that create division and trouble throughout the story; Mr. Fronwieser believes in bleedings and simple remedies while Simon, along with Jakob, believe in herbal medicine. It should be noted that Simon is romantically taken with Magdalena, a girl cursed from birth as being the hangman's daughter and accused of being a witch on multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, an unsuspected death of Peter Grimmer which had been taken before his time. Immediately, his father blames Martha Stechlin, the town midwife, of being a witch after finding a tattoo on the drowned boy. In the town, being a midwife is unheard of and like the Kuisl family, Martha is confronted with prejudice and sexism for her line of work. Her home is broken into and placed under arrest; however, the town authorities are fearful of her and the memories of the witch trials that had all but killed every wife and daughter in the town years ago.
A majority of the story revolves around Jakob and Simon, with the help of Magdalena, and the events of kidnappings and deaths in the town. It becomes obvious that someone is undermining the authorities and designing diversions to escape being caught. In the town, there is a group of orphans that take a major beating after witnessing the individuals involved which results in two deaths, one injured, and one in hiding; Clara and Sophie are the remaining orphans that build a hideout underground at the leper building site, allotted to the church by a recently deceased member. Jakob is forced to torture Martha until she confesses to killing the children, managing to drug her into a coma using mandrake powder.
Simon is falling in love with Magdalena and learning a great deal from Jakob about modern medicine. It becomes undeniable that whomever is digging-up the building site is the same person(s) that are behind the incident with the children when Jakob discovers identical footprints, a man with a limp. It is town legend that Ferdinand Augustian buried money, a small fortune, underneath the property of the soon-to-be leper house. Jakob learns that the children are hiding in the ancient tunnels at this site by digging-up Peter and finding red clay in his fingernails. Granted, it is because of this information that results in Magdalena being captured and narrowly escaping rape. Jakob meets the man with the limp, a person from his past in the military that wants revenge.
The story ends with Jakob and Simon exploring the tunnels and rescuing the two orphans, an intense fight between Jakob and the man with the limp takes place underground; Kuisl survives the attack but the man is not as lucky. Magdalena breaks away from her captors, out running them and eventually killing one in the river. Jakob stumbles into the large sum of money in the tunnels, buying Simon a few books on medicine and saving the rest for himself. The relationship between Simon and the hangman's daughter evolves and is accepted by the Kuisl household while Martha is released from prison. It is interesting that the authorities take little to no action against the culprit, however, each person is given their due at this book's end.
Best part of story, including ending:
I really liked the story because of the 1659 depiction of the German culture.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Jakob Kuisl is a man of few word, however, the reader is able to interpret his every gesture.