Jenn’s review of the Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch

For the most part, I truly enjoyed The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale. It falls into my favorite genre, Historical Fiction. The author bases many of his characters and locations on true people and places. He reports in the afterword that he is the descendant to numerous hangmen including Jakob Kuisl, who apparently had a daughter named Magdalena. He also includes detailed descriptions of the historical sites that played parts in his story, just in case you find yourself in Germany and want to take a tour. I appreciate when authors do this; it really helps to piece everything together for me.

I especially enjoyed the lead characters: Jakob Kuisl (the hangman), Magdalena (the hangman’s daughter) and Simon (the local physician and “boyfriend” to Magdalena). I am glad that I got to know the characters well in the first novel, as the author doesn’t focus on them as much in this story. You can appreciate their connections to each other as their stories intertwine, but the author takes them on separate adventures throughout the book. I would have liked to see Magdalena and Simon’s relationship grow some more, but maybe the author didn’t want to distract from the main storyline.

I was also captivated by the relationship that Jakob and Magdalena had with the town’s characters. I found it intriguing how they could be so shunned and feared by members of the town, yet they run to them when they need cures for their illnesses. Everyone looks down on their family until they are in dire need of their medical skills and knowledge. Even knowing this, you still see their characters evolve. Jakob, for instance, seems to become more empathetic and fair. He won’t let a criminal suffer at the hands of his torture if he feels that person has shown penance or has been wronged by society.

As in books like the The Da Vinci Code (which I also loved), the author takes you on a tour of churches and other religious areas to investigate relics, and how those relics lead to the next clue of the riddle created by the Knights of the Templar. I did find that I really had to pay attention and often had to reread sections as I tried to keep all the sordid details straight. I found myself getting the rival characters mixed up.

In stories where there is friction and discord in the church it always amazes me how the antagonists, often members of religious sects, are able to justify murder and crimes against humanity when it was in the name of God. It really makes you think.

Whereas parts of the story were a little dry and the ending was somewhat anticlimactic, I enjoyed trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Also like the Da Vinci Code, I think this series would make a great movie.  I am looking forward to the next installment of the Hangman’s Daughter series: The Beggar King. I’ll usually take a break between historical fiction books, but this one will be on my upcoming list for sure.

Also available for the Nook (Barnes & Noble)

The Dark Monk

I have just started reading The Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch. I’m really excited to read this book as I read The Hangman’s Daughter a while back and loved it. It has already referenced some of the past characters so it’s helping to jog my memory.

1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring 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 ensured he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of his international best seller The Hangman’s Daughter, Oliver Pötzsch takes us on a whirlwind tour–once again based on prodigious historical research into his own family tree–through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries, bringing to life an unforgettable compassionate hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of a 17th-century Bavaria still negotiating the lasting impacts of war, and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.

Has anyone read this yet? If they did, was it a follow-up to the Hangman’s Daughter? What did you think? Was it as good?

Cherry Cheesecake Murder with Recipes – Recommended by Dee

On a bit of a contrast from Stephen King’s thrillers, Dee is reading Cherry Cheesecake Murder  by Joanne Fluke. It’s one of many lighthearted murder mysteries in the series of Hannah Swenson Mysteries …all revolving around baked goods.

Hannah Swensen and her bakery, The Cookie Jar, bask in the glow of Hollywood glamour when Main Street becomes a movie set. And although tensions simmer as the cameras roll, no one expects the action to turn deadly. . .until it’s too late. .

There’s no such thing as privacy in Lake Eden, but Hannah never thought things would go this far. Everyone has been telling her what to do ever since she got not one but two marriage proposals. Movie mania soon shoves Hannah’s marriage dilemma into the background and even gives her cat a shot at stardom. The Cookie Jar serves as snack central with Main Street rented out for the week. She stirs lots of fresh gossip, whipping up treats for cast and crew, including demanding director Dean Lawrence’s favorite–cherry cheesecake.

Everything’s on schedule until Dean demonstrates a suicide scene with a prop gun that turns out to be all too real. As filming continues, Hannah sifts through the clues, hoping against hope that the person responsible for Dean’s death is half-baked enough to have made a mistake. When it happens, Hannah intends be there–ready to rewrite a killer’s lethal script with the kind of quirky ending that can only happen in Lake Eden. . .

If  reading this book triggers your sweet tooth, the author has included 10 recipes for you to try 🙂