cover image The Play of Death: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale

The Play of Death: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale

Oliver Pötzsch, trans. from the German by Lee Chadeayne. Mariner, $18 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-1-328-66208-8

Pötzsch brilliantly juggles multiple story lines in his highly suspenseful sixth historical centered on the family of Magdalena Fronwieser, the daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl (after 2015’s The Werewolf of Bamberg). In 1670, Magdalena’s husband, Simon, a bathhouse keeper with some medical training, travels to the town of Oberammergau so that their precocious seven-year-old son, Peter, can attend a boarding school headed by an old friend of Simon’s. The pair arrive as the community is in an uproar over a gruesome tragedy. Dominik Faistenmantel, who was cast as Jesus in a Passion play that was still being rehearsed, was crucified on the set, and Simon winds up investigating. Meanwhile, Jakob arrives in Oberammergau to obtain a confession from a suspect by torture, even as his other daughter, Barbara, is accused of witchcraft for possessing some forbidden books. The town’s creepy, oppressive atmosphere enhances the intricate plot. [em](May) [/em]