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 historical 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.
IN THE DANUBE GORGE NEAR WELTENBURG,
AUGUST 13, 1662 AD
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER
THE WAVE CAUGHT JAKOB KUISL HEAD-ON AND swept him off the bench like driftwood.
The hangman reached frantically for a handhold as he felt himself slip across the raft boards, feet first, toward the gurgling, swirling river. Slowly yet inexorably, the weight of his body dragged him into the cold water. His fingernails scraped along the planks as he slid, and he could hear frantic shouts nearby, though they were muffled as if by a thick wall. He managed at last to grab hold of a carpenter's nail jutting out of a plank and was hauling himself up just as someone came sliding past him toward the churning water. With his free hand, he lunged, seizing a boy by the collar. About ten years old, the boy thrashed about and gasped for air. The hangman pushed him back into the middle of the raft, where his relieved father grabbed the boy and hugged him.
Wheezing, Kuisl crept back to his seat in the bow....
The Beggar King is a book mainly suited for adults because it contains strong language and mature themes. However, compared to the previous books there is very little gore, even in the torture scenes. In spite of its flaws, it is a fun romp. There are plenty of red herrings, plot complications, and the change of venue provides a cast of colorful characters to keep track of.
(Reviewed by Cindy Anderson).
Full Review (1151 words).
Oliver Pötzsch spent his early years in Bavaria, listening to stories about his family from his grandmother. He says that when he was five or six, she told him that he was a direct descendant of a family named Kuisl, who were employed as executioners. He was too young then to even know what an executioner did, but it sparked a curiosity in him that never left (The Hangman's Daughter, postscript).
Using this history as a starting point, Pötzsch began creating a fictional world for Jakob Kuisl, and studying the history of Schongau as well as the role of the hangman. His aim is "to stick to the facts as much as possible. In that, he doesn...
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