The Dark Monk (Paperback)
Mariner Books, 9780547807683, 463pp.
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
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 Potzsch'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.
Praise For The Dark Monk…
"Swift and sure, compelling as any conspiracy theory, persuasive as any spasm of paranoia, The Dark Monk grips you at the base of your skull and doesn't let go."
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz "Oliver Pötzsch takes readers on a darkly atmospheric visit to seventeenth-century Bavaria in his latest adventure. With enough mystery and intrigue to satisfy those who like gritty historical fiction, The Dark Monk has convincing characters, rip-roaring action, and finely-drawn settings."
—Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches and the forthcoming Shadow of Night "Weaving together the mystery of a murdered priest, a Templar treasure, and a kind-hearted hangman, Oliver Pötzsch's The Dark Monk is a labyrinth of clues and rich characters in seventeenth-century Bavaria. Pötzsch keeps the action boiling, the clues intriguing, and the history fascinating and authentic."
—William Dietrich, author of The Emerald Storm
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- 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?
- Explain the various roles religion plays in The Dark Monk.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- Discuss the significance of Andreas Koppmeyer. What is his role in the story?
- How does Benedikta serve as a foil to Magdalena? Who, if anyone, fills that role for Simon?
- Why is Simon “both attracted and repelled” by Benedikta?
- How does Simon’s superficial love of fashion and appearance blind him to potential danger?
- 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?
- 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?
- Who do you think the hidden “master” of the story is? Who do you think is the fourth robber?
- Discuss the significance of Jakob Kuisl referring to his time as a soldier as “from before.”
- What do you make of Jakob Kuisl’s distinction “I’m a hangman, but not a murderer”?
- What are some of the pleasures and drawbacks of reading historical novels, especially those with a grounding in reality?