The Council of Twelve
by Oliver Potzsch
Translated by Lisa Reinhardt
Publication Date : May 29, 2018
Pages : 512
Synopsis from Publisher:
The year is 1672. Hangman Jakob Kuisl and his family travel to Munich, the cosmopolitan heart of Bavaria, for a meeting of the prestigious Council of Twelve, the leaders of the empire’s hangmen’s guild—prestigious for dishonorable hangmen, at least. But something dark is happening behind the scenes: in the past weeks, young women have begun turning up dead. At first, the authorities assume they are a rash of suicides, but when Kuisl notices that each woman possesses a matching amulet, suspicions arise that someone is murdering them. With no suspects, the superstitious townsfolk of Munich blame the hangmen’s guild, certain that they have called the devil upon the city. Joined by his daughter Magdalena, son-in-law Simon, the rest of his extended family, and a slew of eccentric hangmen, Kuisl must solve the mystery of who is murdering the women. If he fails, the consequences could reverberate across the empire, affecting all the hangmen in Germany.
Each time I read the newest installment of The Hangman’s Daughter series, I feel as if I am reconnecting with old friends. To me this is the mark of an excellent series. With every new book readers feel welcomed, eager to catch up on the recent life events, and happy to reflect on times gone by. In The Council of Twelve, book seven of the series, Potzsch continues this cheerful trend bringing readers along on the latest adventures of the Kuisl family.
The Council of Twelve is the exclusive gathering of the twelve most respected and feared hangmen in Bavaria. In 1672 they welcome Jakob Kuisl, the Schongau executioner. Jakob, his daughter Magdalena, her husband, and their family travel with Jakob to Munich to attend the Council of Twelve meeting. Upon their arrival in Munich, the Kuisls learn that young girls are being killed. Very quickly the Kuisls are thrust into the investigation of the deaths. They soon realize there is much more to these deaths and the consequences of not solving the murders could affect not only the Kuisls but all Bavarian executioners.
I have read and loved all of the books in The Hangman’s Daughter series. In each book Jakob and his family are somehow dragged into a murder investigation. While Jakob and his family are considered dishonorable amongst their fellow citizens; they are an important and vital part of the community. Jakob is clever and his knowledge of healing herbs has saved many lives in his hometown of Schongau. The rest of the Kuisls are responsible for keeping the streets of Schongau clean. Despite being essential to the town, the Kuisls are treated as outcasts, avoided, often ridiculed and belittled. The very presence of the any Kuisl in any setting causes towns people to cross themselves as the family is believed to bring misfortune. One would think this would make the Kuisls bitter, while they are guarded, they are still kind and willing to help anyone who is in need. This is what makes the Kuisls endearing and why readers will always cheer for the hangman and his family.
One hangman is bad luck, twelve is a death wish. This is the shared attitude of most citizens in Munich. As all hangmen are dishonorable and the cause of misfortune, Munich is already on edge. The deaths of the young girls is quickly blamed on The Council of Twelve. Potzsch does a great job portraying the paranoia which follows the hangmen and the Kuisls while they are in Munich. While the paranoia may seem ridiculous and sometimes comical, one must consider this story takes place just twenty-one years before the Salem Witch Trials. This story takes place in a time when unexplained events were met with extreme and unreasonable actions.
As with all of books in The Hangman’s Daughter series, The Council of Twelve is narrated so that readers are transported to Bavaria during the sixteen hundreds. Potzsch’s vivid descriptions of dirty streets and the constant smell of rot and decay allow readers to become fully immersed in the time period.
The central mystery is intriguing and left me stumped until the culprit was revealed. I could relate to Jakob’s frustration with solving the case. I, like Jakob, thought I had identified the guilty party and each time I was wrong. Potzsch makes several mentions of Jakob’s age throughout the story, how he is growing tired and weary with his job as executioner. Although I know it would be unrealistic for Jakob to go on forever, with everyone aging except him, but I really hope there are many more stories of Jakob Kuisl and his family.
** Thanks to Amazon Publishing for my free copy of The Council of Twelve **
Murder and Moore Rating :
5 out of 5 Stars