The Werewolf of Bamberg: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale

Written by Lee Chadeayne (trans.) Oliver Pötzsch
Review by Francesca Pelaccia

It’s 1668, and the hangman of Schongau, Jakob Kuisl, and his daughters, Barbara and Magdalena; her husband, Simon; and their children are in the town of Bamberg for the wedding of his brother, Bartholomaus. Also a hangman, Barthomaus will break social conventions when he marries Katharina Hauser, daughter of a prominent city clerk, and celebrates with a large party. But what was planned to be a festive occasion soon turns into a nightmare when severed limbs of citizens who have gone missing are found scattered outside the city. When more body parts are found and a monstrous furry creature is sighted running through the town, rumors quickly spread that the murders are the work of a werewolf. To prove the superstition wrong, catch the real murderer, and make peace with a love-struck and rebellious daughter, Jakob and the rest of his family embark on solving the mystery of the werewolf of Bamberg.

The Werewolf of Bamberg is the fifth book in the Hangman’s Daughter series by Oliver Pötzsch, who gives enough background information to allow the novel to stand alone. The plot is complex with lots of twists and turns and subplots that keep the reader hooked and maintain suspense and mystery to the end. All the characters, whether major or minor, are fully developed with their own histories and roles in solving the mystery.

The novel is rich in historical details, bringing the harsh realities and makeup of 17th-century Bavaria to vivid life, especially the piety and superstitions of the people, who are ready to accuse and attack anyone, and the corrupt clergy and city officials, whose greed brings on a story of revenge. The Werewolf of Bamberg is both an entertaining novel and an insightful history of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.