The Dark Monk: A Hangman's Daughter Tale (The Hangman's Daughter) CD-ROM – June 12, 2012
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Top reviews from the United States
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The Dark Monk, the second book in the Hangman's Daughter series (despite the much smaller role of the daughter in the series compared to her father and the young town doctor), does a lot of what made the first book so much fun to read. Pötzsch's evocation of 17th-century Bavaria is wonderful, immersing you in a world that feels immaculately researched and realistic without ever grinding the story to a halt to show off the details that he's learned in his diggings. And the plot is undeniably a blast, taking the form of a treasure hunt through the religious sites of the era in pursuit of the lost treasure of the Knights Templar, all while being pursued by members of a mysterious religious order. Oh, it's all a bit into the realm of the ridiculous, but Pötzsch makes it work by committing so wholly to it and adding in his own humor and sensibility to the mix, reminding us all that this is a fun series, not a grimy historical re-enactment.
And, of course, there's the compelling character of Jacob Kuisl, the town executioner and surprisingly well-read and learned man. Kuisl is Pötzsch's ancestor, so it's no surprise that he has some Mary Sue tendencies - he's always head of his time, wiser than the superstitious townfolk, ready to give mercy when he deems fit, and so forth. But by marrying all of those qualities to someone who also tortures and executes people for a living, Pötzsch undercuts some of those worries, letting Kuisl be both the brilliant Sherlock Holmes analog and a bit of an antihero. Does he sometimes get to be a bit too smart for the book and for my taste, feeling so much like the hero that you wish he had some more flaws? Sure, a bit, and I think this book doesn't quite steer into his executioner job as well as the first book did. But Kuisl remains an intriguing character, and by separating him from his protege and letting the two characters have their own threads - the young doctor hunting the treasure, while Kuisl deals with some wandering bandits who seem to have too much information about secret trading routes - Pötzsch is able to cover more ground and develop each a bit on their own terms.
None of which is to say that The Dark Monk is flawless. The treasure plot gets a bit more absurd as it goes along, and whether it goes into the point of silliness will vary by the reader - for me, it felt like a fun B-movie at times, and I say that as a fan of B-movies. More annoying is Pötzsch's constant trick of omitting key conversations with narration that simply tells us that a character was shocked to hear something, or knew that it confirmed their theory, and delaying that revelation until later; it always feels like a cheap stall or an easy tease, and while it works once or twice, after a while, it feels like a crutch.
But for all of that, I enjoyed The Dark Monk enough to keep me enjoying it and excited to see how it unfolded. There are better thriller writers, undeniably, but the combination of historical time period, interesting characters, and lurid plot all work together to give you a historical fiction beach read of a sort - and sometimes that's all you want.
What "The Dark Monk" establishes early & often is what many potential readers may be concerned about: Whether or not this book can stand alone by itself or if it needs to be read only after you've gone through "Book 1/The Hangman's Daughter" - and the answer is, YOU CAN READ "THE DARK MONK" WITHOUT READING THE FORMER SERIES ENTRY AND STILL UNDERSTAND WHO EVERYONE IS AND WHAT THEIR CHARACTERS ARE LIKE ETC.
However, I'd read "The Hangman's Daughter" no less than a few days before "The Dark Monk," (truth be told I will likely be starting Book 3/"The Beggar King" in no time), and so I was eager to dive right into the meat of the next story. Much to my liking, Pötzsch wastes no ink or pages on getting down to business. In the opening chapter we are at once placed back NOT FAR FROM the 1600's Bavarian setting that our beloved Schongau Hangman resides in. Within a few pages, we're already following the three protagonists established in the first book, (The Hangman's Daughter): Jakob Kuisl - The Schongau Hangman, Magdalena Kuisl - The Schongau Hangman's eponymous daughter, and Simon Fronwieser - Schongau's polarizing young new physician whom is also a hopeful suitor for the charming Magdalena Kuisl), all set out to solve the mystery behind an ever-expanding murder. One that is far from what it seems and will lead them - as the book's synopsis appropriately reveals - on a search for a treasure perhaps dating back to the Knights Templar.
Filled to the brim with historically accurate references and fascinating insight into the lives of those inhabiting the period piece, "The Dark Monk," comes back stronger & more sinister than its opening novel, with a rabbit hole of conspiracies just waiting to pull you in until you've reached the final pages.
Easy 4 out of 5 stars for a book that doesn't pretend to offer more than it can deliver, yet delivers just above your best-guesses & expectations. Enjoy.
I was intrigued with this series from the first book and the second, while a bit slow, does not disappoint. There is so much to learn about this time period in the Bavarian Alps and to have a main character that is not only a hangman, a position feared and with suspicion, makes for a very intriguing story. I will be reading more.
Top reviews from other countries
Whether you are a history buff, conspiracy theorist or crime novel fan, the Dark Monk does not disappoint!
I enjoyed the first book better, but still a very good read.