Pötzsch’s (The Castle of Kings, 2016, etc.) sixth tale from the Hangman’s Daughter series chronicles another provocative...

THE PLAY OF DEATH

In the shadow of Bavaria’s Kofel Mountain, "that old demon," Venetian dwarves, family rivalries, xenophobia, and greed make a witch’s brew of murders.

It’s spring of 1670, and Jakob Kuisl and his son-in-law, bathhouse keeper and town healer Simon Fronwieser, are dispatched from Bavaria’s Schongau to Oberammergau, where a murder by crucifixion has occurred. Kuisl is officially Schongau’s hangman, and thus he’s part of the "dishonorable class," but he's often dispatched as a trusted investigator by wily local elector (think prosecutor/judge) Johann Lechner. In Oberammergau, a Passion play is performed each decade as thanks to God for being spared from plagues. This time, however, locals have scheduled the play four years early. Oberammergau is in a panic, believing the crucifixion is divine retribution. As Simon’s wife copes with witchcraft charges and a despicable doctor with designs on her sister back in Schongau, Bavaria’s fear-ridden history haunts both narratives. Supporting characters include a tubercular schoolteacher, his assistant, the memorably cruel Poxhannes, assorted grumpy woodcutters and superstitious wagon drivers, and starving peasants lurking in cold, dreary huts. The plot is layered and complex, every corner a surprise as danger hides in smoke-filled taverns, lurks along muddy trails and in the forested mountains. Simon, vain but clever, and tough Jakob, with an iron core of honor, soon conclude that what’s revealed disguises the truth and powerful burghers want them dead. There’s an absorbing aside on salt’s importance in the late Middle Ages and an allusion to our modern reaction to immigrants—"Filthy laborers...like ticks and bugs"— in prosperous Oberammergau’s treatment of its imported workers.

Pötzsch’s (The Castle of Kings, 2016, etc.) sixth tale from the Hangman’s Daughter series chronicles another provocative mystery in an uncommon setting.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-328-66208-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more