The Council of Twelve (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale)

Written by Lisa Reinhardt (trans.) Oliver Pötzsch
Review by Linnea Tanner

Oliver Pötzsch weaves a riveting, historical thriller against the backdrop of 1672 Bavaria. Hangman Jakob Kuisl’s family is swept into political intrigue, murder, and superstitious fervor when they arrive in Munich. Each family member—the married daughter and her husband and two sons; the pregnant, unwed daughter; and executioner son—brings a dream or dark secret which will ultimately spin into the web of a serial killer lurking in the city’s shadows. Though Jakob considers it an honor to become a member of the Council of Twelve, Munich’s inhabitants consider the gathering of the members in the supreme body of the Bavarian executioners’ guild as a bad omen. Their fears are reinforced as bodies of women, wearing the amulet of the haloed Mother Mary, are discovered. Each of them has been executed in the prescribed punishment for a child murderess. Unrelated events associated with each of Jakob’s family members interweave into a complex lattice, twisting the reader’s mind until the shocking, unexpected conclusion.            Pötzsch has masterfully created a story, from the omniscient point of view, that is not only full of suspense but is also character-driven and rich in description. Each of the characters’ subplots skillfully interweaves into the rich tapestry of the tale. Ultimately, this is the story of the plight of desperate women who find themselves trapped in unwanted pregnancies with limited options. The Council of Twelve is an exceptional suspense novel addressing the social stigma of unwed mothers that is still relevant today. This novel will appeal to a cross-genre of readers who enjoy suspense and character-driven novels. Highly recommended.