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The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch -Reading Guide

The Dark Monk

By Oliver Pötzsch

PBR Book Review:

A good who done it mystery that delves into the history of the Knights Templar. It’s set in 17th century Germany and includes great descriptions of churches, religious relics, customs, medical practices of the time and simple day to day struggles; traveling to a near by town for supplies for example, can be difficult and dangerous. The characters are strong and captivate right from the start. I love fiery women, so Magdalena’s willful passionate personality appealed to me but I also loved Jakob, the empathetic hangman. It’s characters like these, that are easy to relate to and very real, that add immensely to the reading enjoyment. Reading about the religious practices and it’s member always amazes me too, as they are not exactly pillars of society, but rather like the modern day politician with an end justifies the means mentality. It’s also interesting to note that the author is a descendant of a executioner and bases is characters on real people.

Book Club Talking Points:

Aside from a well plotted mystery, this book examines the socioeconomic restrictions of class and explores the early days of medicine. Full of passion, Magdalena the hangman’s daughter, pushes the limits of what is socially acceptable and struggles to understand her place in society. Great book for those that enjoy historical fiction and puzzle mysteries.

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*Author Website:

*Other Books by Same Author: “The Hangman’s Daughter”.

*Discussion Questions

1. There are a number of allusions to the Templar text Ordinis Templorum Historia and Latin quotes throughout the novel. Explain these references: How do they help to solve the mystery?

2. Explain the various roles religion plays in The Dark Monk

3. Augustin Bonenmayr is seeking the True Cross of Christ—“It will adorn this church, and crowds of pilgrims will once again come flocking to Steingaden!”—and is willing to do anything to obtain it, even kill. How does history show that religious fervor always leads to violence?

4. The novel opens with a quote from Aristotle, Poetics, XXIV: “We delight in marvelous things. One proof of that is that everyone embellishes somewhat when telling a story in the assumption he is pleasing his listener.” How is this sentiment explored in The Dark Monk? Who in the novel embellishes their story? What, if any, punishment is given to this person?

5. Compare how Oliver Pötzsch fleshes out the male and female characters. Do you think he does a better job with one gender? Why do you think he chose Magdalena Kuisl instead of Jakob Kuisl to title the series after?

6. Discuss the significance of Andreas Koppmeyer. What is his role in the story?

7. How does Benedikta serve as a foil to Magdalena? Who, if anyone, fills that role for Simon?

8. Why is Simon “both attracted and repelled” by Benedikta?

9. How does Simon’s superficial love of fashion and appearance blind him to potential danger?

10. How much, if any, has Johann Lechner changed since the first novel? Is Lechner still willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of Schongau?

11. Explain Kuisl's worry for Simon while having hardly any for his daughter, Magdalena, while she is in Augsburg. Was it was a wise decision to send Magdalena, a young woman, to Augsburg without an escort?

12. Who do you think the hidden "master" of the story is? Who do you think is the fourth robber?

13. Discuss the significance of Jakob Kuisl referring to his time as a soldier as “from before.”

14.What do you make of Jakob Kuisl’s distinction “I’m a hangman, but not a murderer”?

15.What are some of the pleasures and drawbacks of reading historical novels, especially those with a grounding in reality?

Book Summary
Mariner Books - 512 pages - june 12, 20123-ISBN-10:0547807686

THE ANTICIPATED FOLLOWUP TO THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER, THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER 1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring every farmer and servant is indoors the night a parish priest discovers he's been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost.

Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl; his headstrong daughter Magdalena; and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

But they’re not the only ones after the legendary fortune. A team of dangerous and mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move, speaking Latin in the shadows, giving off a strange, intoxicating scent. And to throw the hangman off their trail, they have ensured he is tasked with capturing a band of thieves roving the countryside attacking solitary travelers and spreading panic.

Delivering on the promise of the international bestseller The Hangman’s Daughter, once again based on prodigious historical research into Pötzsch’s family tree, The Dark Monk takes us on a whirlwind tour through the occult hiding places of Bavaria’s ancient monasteries, bringing to life an unforgettable compassionate hangman and his tenacious daughter, painting a robust tableau of a seventeenth-century Bavaria still negotiating the lasting impacts of war, and quickening our pulses with a gripping, mesmerizing mystery.
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