COUNCIL OF TWELVE
Publisher: Mariner Books (May 29, 2018)
A Hangman’s Daughter mystery (Book 7)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
1672: Jakob Kuisl, the Schongau hangman, has at long last gained a place on the Council of Twelve. This is made up of the leaders of the empire’s hangmen’s guild; it is an honor, as much as a dishonorable hangman can be honored. All of his family except daughter Barbara is happy to make the trip, each for their own particular reasons.
He and his entire family, daughters Barbara and Magdalena, son-in-law Simon, the Schongau doctor, and his three grandchildren, Peter, Paul, and infant Sophia, are making the arduous trip to Munich with him. Waiting there to meet them are his oldest son Georg and his brother …. The bustling city offers unlimited opportunities to the rambunctious Paul, who has the temperament and audacity of his grandfather. He immediately throws in with a gang of street kids, impressing them with his toughness. Peter, a quiet, highly intelligent boy, is hoping to find a place in a prestigious school where learning is prized. Jakob plans to find a suitable husband for Barbara from the hangmen or one of the other disreputable guilds: knackers, tanners, rat catchers and the like. Barbara, who had a mind of her own and a preference for slightly dangerous men, has no intention of doing so. She wants to choice her own husband and marry for love, not business. Simon has written a treatise he hopes to turn the medical world on its head, and he is optimistic that he can convince the most renowned physician in Munich to read it.
The adventure gets off to a bad start even before the family makes it into the city. The body of a young woman has just been found, drowned, her clothing caught up in a mill wheel. Jakob is able to free her, which would seem to be a good thing, but when he identifies himself as the Schongau hangman, the superstitious crowd looks on him with anger. He and his family quickly go on their way, escorted by Jakob’s friend Michael, the Munich hangman.
More young women are murdered, and older murders are re-examined. All were killed by methods typically used by hangmen. Having twelve men from this dishonorable guild near the city was bad enough, but if one or more of them are guilty of the savage crimes, there will be hell to pay.
Things do not go well at the council meetings. There is friction between several of the men; jealousy, suspicion, and copious consumption of alcohol add to the tension. All agree, however, that they must try to band together to find the true killer, thus proving their innocence.
There are other disturbing crimes going on in the city: counterfeit coins are being circulated, strange things are happening at a nearby silk factory, and a royal dog is missing. When all is said and done, every member of the Kuisl clan has a part in solving the crimes, even baby Sophia. They all face danger, and there are some unpleasant, disheartening surprises along the way.
The Schongau hangman is growing old, but he’s not quite ready to sit at home with his feet up and a beer stein in his hand. When his days are finally done, his legacy and progeny will carry on. Despite Jakob’s dishonorable trade, the reader cannot help but get attached to his family. Watching them grow through the years has been a pleasure for this reader, and I hope the series will continue for a long time to come.THE COUNCIL OF TWELVE is another stellar novel in the Hangman’s Daughter mystery series. The author creates a vivid portrait of the history and culture of late seventeenth century Germany when it was part of an empire. The characters are true to life, from the lowest members of the society to the high and mighty. The mystery is cleverly plotted, with many red herrings and unexpected twists and turns. The series is a must-read for fans of historical novels, fans of enthralling mysteries, and for those who enjoy the tales of a highly talented story teller. Highly recommended.
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