The Poisoned Pilgrim by Oliver Potzsch

Title: The Poisoned Pilgrim
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Length: 486 pages
Published in: 2012 (original German text), 2013 (English translation)
Genre: historical fiction (Bavaria, Germany, 15th century, executioners, monasteries)
ISBN: 9780544114609
Source: borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: This is the fourth installment in a series I read.
Rating: 3/5

Summary (from book cover):

1666: The monastery at Andechs has long been a pilgrimage destination, but when the hangman’s daughter, Magdalena, her doctor husband, Simon, and their two small children arrive there, they learn that the monks have far larger concerns than saying Mass and receiving alms. It seems that once again the hangman’s family has fallen into a mysterious and dangerous adventure.

Two monks at the monastery experiment with cutting-edge technology, including a method of deflecting the lightning that has previously set the monastery ablaze. When one of the monks disappears and his lab is destroyed, foul play is suspected. Who better to investigate than the famed hangman Jakob Kuisl? But as the hangman and his family attempt to solve the mystery of the missing monk, they must deal with the eccentric denizens of the monastery and villagers who view the monks’ inventions as witchcraft that must be destroyed at all costs.

My Thoughts: I think this has been my least favorite of the series so far. As bad as it might sound, I think I was less interested in it because the sexual tension that had been present in the first three is gone, now that Magdalena and Simon are married, and even have a couple of children. I think the children also might have something to do with why I wasn’t as big a fan this time around. That is really awful, considering the fact that I do love kids and am expecting myself. I just don’t think the story was a gruesome as previous installments–while that honestly might have nothing to do with the children playing a small part in the story, I find myself blaming them for it just the same. I don’t remember in the past there being so many plot lines as this story had–there was a “sorcerer” who turned out to not be the only wrong-doer in the story, so towards the end, there were different plots to consider and how they affected each other. Apparently, I prefer a more direct story 😕

As ever before, I wasn’t able to surmise who the major evil-doer of the story was before it was revealed, nor even the other, more minor “bad guys”. Although I had guessed correctly who was the sorcerer’s assistant from early on. And I’d also been correct about something concerning Magdalena from the beginning of the story, though it doesn’t play much of a role in the story. Maybe the next installment?

While I didn’t like this book as much as the first three, I will still be reading whatever comes next in the series. One not-as-great-as-the-others-but-still-good book in a series isn’t enough to deter me completely 🙂

The Beggar King by Oliver Potzsch

TitleThe Beggar King
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Length: 457 pages
Published in: 2010
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
ISBN: 9780547992198
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: I’ve read the first two in this ongoing series and loved them: The Hangman’s Daughter and The Dark Monk
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

The year is 1662. Alpine village hangman Jakob Kuisl receives a letter from his sister calling him to the imperial city of Regensburg, where a gruesome sight awaits him: her throat has been slit. Arrested and framed for the murder, Kuisl faces first-hand the torture he’s administered himself for years.

Jakob’s daughter, Magdalena, and a young medicus named Simon hasten to his aid. With the help of an underground network of beggars, a beer-brewing monk, and an Italian playboy, they discover that behind the false accusation is a plan that will endanger the entire German Empire.

Chock-full of fhistorical detail, The Beggar King brings to vibrant life another tale of an unlikely hangman and his tough-as-nails daughter, confirming Pötzsch’s mettle as a writer to watch.

My Thoughts: Another great story from Potzsch 🙂 There is a lot happening in this tale, but I won’t go into much detail because there are many small mysteries in the plot. But I have not been disappointed with any of these books and I’m very excited for The Warlock, which comes out next.

The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch {audiobook}

Title: The Dark Monk
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Narrator: Grover Garland
Length: 15 hours
Published in: 2009 (book, in German); 2012 (English translation)
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9781455867233
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading:
Last year, I listened to The Hangman’s Daughter on audio. When I saw this on the new release shelf at the library, I decided to see how it was.
Rating: 5/5


1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring that every farmer and servant is indoors the night a parish priest discovers he’s been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost.

Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl, his headstrong daughter Magdalena, and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

But they’re not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange, intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have made sure he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside, attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of the international bestseller The Hangman’s Daughter, Oliver Potzsch takes us on a whirlwind tour through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries. Once again based on prodigious historical research into Potzsch’s family tree, The Dark Monk brings to life an unforgettable, compassionate hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of a seventeenth-century Bavaria and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.

My Thoughts: I rather liked this book, just as I did it’s predecessor. (I’ve put in my request for The Beggar King from my library, so hopefully I’ll be able to read that soon!) It was easier for me to picture this book than the first one, but I can’t say there’s any reason for that. At one point, there were two or three different plot lines going on in this story, which confused me a little. With a few seconds pause in the narration, I’d be reading about Magdalena instead of the hangman or Simon & Benedicta. But he different characters’ stories all ended up together, as I assumed they would. There were some surprises in the book, at least to me. I don’t think too much when I’m reading a book, not usually looking for any sort of clues or trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. Unless the nature of the story is mystery, that is. This was more of an adventure than the first in the “series”, involving the Templars. (It seems so many novels have something about the Templars and/or the Masons if they involve religion or history…not that I mind.) I’m really looking forward to the next Hangman’s Daughter tale (The Beggar King).

Around the World in 12 Books: June (Germany)

Title: The Hangman’s Daughter
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Narrator: Grover Garland
Length: 13 hours pages
Published in: 2008
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9781455827138
Source: public library
Reason(s) for Reading: Around the World in 12 Books

Summary (from Goodreads):

Germany, 1659: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead ? marked by the same tattoo ? the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos. 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 town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

My Thoughts: I really liked this story, but it was a little hard to picture as I read it. The last two audiobooks I’ve listened to–this and The Sheen on the Silk–have been harder for me to imagine than before. Perhaps that is because I just haven’t read books set in the mid-1600s or mid-1200s very often. When I tried to picture this particular book, I kept thinking to myself: pilgrims 🙂 Yeah, that’s probably a bit off, but probably not too much.

As far as the story goes, I found it really interesting. There were a few different mysteries to ponder over when reading the story, who was the killer, who paid him to kill, etc. And, as usual, I didn’t try too hard to figure that out because I knew the story would tell me eventually.


What did you learn about the country’s culture, history etc. from reading this book? Any new insights, any shifts in your perception, or did it align with what you knew/understood already?

I didn’t learn much about the history of Germany or about its historic culture that I didn’t already know. The witch-hunt type event wasn’t all that uncommon for the time, at least in the Christian world. I admit I don’t know if witch frenzies were a big deal in areas of the world that practice other religions. It seemed that the social/cultural/historical aspects of the book were pretty similar to the early American colonies, of which I have a fair understanding.

How did land, geography, flora and fauna feature in the book? Did it have a distinct feel that helped you visualise and made you feel like you were there, or was the story more focused on plot?

There was actually a lot of description about the land in the story. There was a river, essential for trade, and a dense forest surrounding part of the town. It did help me envision the setting, but imagining the people and what they wore and acted like was tough for me. I mean, the story read as if it could be happening now, aside from the label of leper house and fighting with swords.


Did the story make you want to visit/revisit the country, or explore it in a new way if you live there already; did it make you want to read more stories set in the country?

I have always been interested in visiting Germany. A lot of my family, on both sides, came frm Germany. My great-great-grandparents came in the mid-1800s from somewhere. I mean, come on, Reichert and Kaetzel couldn’t be more German, and those are my paternal grandparents. There was nothing much in the story, having been set so long ago, that enticed me further to visit Germany. But I still want to go, and maybe I could glimpse that past Germany.