I was attracted to this book because of the absolutely stunning cover but the story is darker than it suggests. The Slaughterman's Daughter is a historical adventure, set in the late 19th century in the Pale of Settlement (an area of Imperial Russia including Belarus and parts of Poland) where Jews were forced to live. The publishers have described the story as being a cross between Quentin Tarantino and Fiddler on the Roof, and that pretty much sums it up! If you're looking for a book that is a little bit different, this is the read for you.
In the isolated, godforsaken town of Motal husbands go missing on a regular basis (they've usually run off in search of a better life) but never wives and mothers. So when Fanny Keismann - devoted wife, mother of five, and celebrated cheese-maker - leaves her home in the middle of the night, the town is aghast. Rumours regarding her disappearance rapidly circulate, some of which even turn out to be true.
The Slaughterman's Daughter is basically Fanny's attempt to find her missing brother-in-law and persuade (force!) him to come home. As she sets off on her road trip, everything that could go wrong does, unwittingly involving all kinds of innocent (and not so innocent) people, until the highest powers become convinced the country is on the brink of revolution. It is a rollicking story that shows how the simplest actions and purest thoughts can quickly lead to disaster.
There is a serious message running through The Slaughterman's Daughter but there is also humour. I loved the titular character of Fanny, who hacks her way through the story in a very Tarantino way! (There is the occasional scene of mild gore.) The other characters are utterly believable and completely engaging; I even found myself sympathising with the the villains. There are multiple points of view and we learn every character's backstory. As fascinating as these tales-within-a-tale were, they did slow down the pace quite a lot. But if take-you-by-the-throat characters, seat-of-your-pants action, and oodles of authentic atmosphere are your thing, you will definitely love this. Personally, I'd love to see it made into a movie...
Thank you to Yaniv Iczkovits and MacLehose Press (Quercus) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.