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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch

Translated by: Lee Chadwayne

Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery

Setting: Bavaria, 1660 AD

First Sentence:  When the parish priest Andreas Koppmeyer pressed the last stone into place and sealed the opening with lime and mortar, he had just four hours to live.

This novel is the second in Potzsch's Hangman's Daughter series.

It is the depths of winter.  The small town of Schongau is a dark, dreary village.  Once it had been a hub of commerce.  That was before the war.  Now it is in danger of becoming a forgotten corner of Bavaria.

Due to the harsh winter there has been an epidemic of a deadly coughing sickness.  The local doctors and healers have not been able to stop the onslaught of infection.

On top of that, it has become increasingly difficult for local merchants to transport their goods to neighboring towns.  In the forests around Schongau there have been roving gangs of highwaymen scratching out a meager existence by robbing freight wagons.  It seems that someone has been telling the thieves about the merchants' planned shipments.

In a church near Schongau, a parish priest has been found poisoned.  It seems that in his death throes he has left a clue which may lead to the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar.

As the plot progresses, we follow the exploits of three citizens of Schongau, and a newcomer, as they seek the Templar's treasure.

Jakob Kuisel is the hangman of the town.  He is looked down upon by polite society.  Yet he is well read. And he is knowledgeable about herbs and folk remedies.

His daughter, Magdelina, is very intelligent.  She is more educated than most women of her time.  Due to her family's low social standing, she is doomed to marry either a butcher or a hangman.

Simon is the son of the city doctor.  He is trained in classical medicine.  But unlike his father, he is open to learning about folk remedies from the local healers.  He and Magdelina are in love.

Benedikta is a newcomer to the town.  She claims to be the sister of the murdered priest.  She is intelligent and feisty.  She soon becomes a rival to Magdelina for Simon's affections.

The four characters begin to gather clues.  Soon they are hot on the trail of the treasure.  Unfortunately, there are others who are also interested in the treasure.  Some believe the treasure is a  hoard of riches.  Others believe the treasure is a relic of great value for the church.

Will our intrepid investigators find the Templar's Treasure?

Will the power of faith guide them to a just conclusion?

For me, the grayness and bleakness of Schongau really comes through.  So many of the people are in such desperate circumstances.  Yet they continue to have a deep belief in the church and the power of the supernatural.

I like reading historical novels that paint a realistic  picture of life in medieval times.  In my opinion, this novel was not as good as the book in the series.  But, that being said, I enjoyed reading it.

    The Dark Monk                     The first book in the series

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