In The Hangman's Daughter, Oliver Potzsch uses the vocation of one of his ancestors, town executioner, to tell the story of possible witchcraft in a small town in Bavaria in 1659. Fifty years previous, the small town had burned 70 people as witches. They do not want to go through that again. But children are being killed and left with marks on their shoulders to indicate the sign of the witch. There are other strange happenings in the town including several citings of "the devil," as well as buildings mysteriously burning to the ground.
When one of the villagers points out that the children hang around a particular midwife, she is arrested and thrown into the town keep. In addition to executing people, the town executioner is also responsible for the torture of suspects. He has strong suspicions that none of this has to do with the midwife, who also brought his three children into the world. He has to do what the town council asks, but on his own time, he investigates the mysterious happenings in the hope that he can spare the midwife. There are many people who might want the buildings to burn and the midwife to die.
This is not a book for people who like fast-paced mysteries. Potzsch brings to life his character of Jakob Kuisl, the town executioner, and the sadness that that position brings. The idea of small town life in that time period and its restrictions, supervisions and fears come to life.