Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book Review: 'The Dark Monk: A Hangman's Daughter Tale' by Oliver Pötzsch

✰✰✰✰½ After solving a series of murders, life in 17th century Schongau, Germany has mostly returned to normal. The second installment of the Hangman’s Daughter series finds Magdalena working as an apprentice for the midwife. As the daughter of a hangman her future holds limited opportunities for her.

Just as things are looking up, the tide quickly changes. A local priest is found poisoned and a series of highway robberies have paralyzed the local towns making it impossible for the merchants to deliver their goods. Add to that a mysterious illness working its way through town and the people of Schongau are suddenly on edge again.
As Simon and his father try to offer medical care to the villagers, Simon finds himself teaming up with the murdered priest’s sister, Benedikta Koppmeyer, to pursue clues all over the picturesque German countryside. Meanwhile the hangman, Jakob Kuisl, is assigned to lead a band of men to find the robbers. As usual Magdalena’s relationship with Simon is rocky and the romantic tension builds with the arrival of Benedikta. Although Simon, Magdalena, and the hangman all find themselves going their separate ways, the riddles and clues all add up to a dangerous search for treasure hidden by the mysterious Knights Templar. Along the way, each has a feeling that someone is watching, and with each twist and turn of this mystery the stakes get higher and the danger more imminent. The trio must work together to solve the mystery and find the treasure before someone else does...or before someone else gets killed.
The Bottom Line: I had been looking forward to reading the second book in the series for quite a while. The Dark Monk doesn’t disappoint. It’s a quick read despite being nearly 450 pages long. While the English translation seemed somewhat too contemporary at times, I thought this book was even better than the first. As with the first book, there are multiple protagonists; each does their part to contribute to solving the mystery. This mystery reminded me of a scavenger hunt as Simon followed the riddles to various monasteries in the German countryside.

While some parts of the book were a bit predictable, there were still plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing. Additionally, the inclusion of the mysteries of the Knights Templar in this installment added to the intrigue. Although there is a religious theme to this installment, this is not a book of Christian fiction by any means. I, also, enjoyed the many subplots including the romantic tension between Magdalena and Simon. Very enthusiastically recommended for those interested in historical mysteries. Also, highly recommended for those searching for a series that is a little bit different from the usual. I'm looking forward to reading the third book, The Beggar King.

Details: The Dark Monk: A Hangman's Daughter Tale by Oliver Pötzsch and translated by Lee Chadeayne. Paperback published by Mariner Books in 2012. 528 p. ISBN: 978-0-547-80768-3

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