What’s it all about?:
The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream…
1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.
As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years…
What did I think?:
This novel is the first book on Richard and Judy’s Autumn Reads 2015 here in the UK and, as always, I like to challenge myself to read the whole list. I’m quite familiar with the author Kate Mosse as I’ve read her first novel Labyrinth and I am featuring her short story collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales on my Short Stories Challenge so I thought I knew what kind of novel I was going to be in for. However, The Taxidermist’s Daughter seems to be a bit of a side-step for the author into the world of Gothic superstition and thriller and I found myself pleasantly surprised.
The novel is set in the sleepy seaside village of Fishbourne in the early twentieth century, a place which the author knows well and which came across beautifully in her descriptive and evocative prose. Our main character is a young woman called Connie Gifford and when we first meet her life is not being incredibly kind. She lives with her father in a large house but is quite isolated from the rest of the village and perhaps this is best as over the past few years her father has taken to drink and she often finds herself having to care for him in more ways then she should. He used to run a popular museum that housed his avian taxidermy pieces but unfortunately the business floundered and he sank down into a pit of depression. Connie manages to keep some of their business going by creating the pieces herself, a job which she enjoys but she is finding herself deeply concerned about her father with each passing day as he seems to be hiding something from her. Factor this in with a terrible accident that Connie suffered when she was a young girl that has caused her to have complete amnesia of her life before the injury and that she still suffers “petit mal” incidents where she loses herself for an unstated period of time and we start to have the bones of a very juicy little mystery.
The plot thickens when the body of an unknown woman is washed up close to Connie’s home. As if this wasn’t enough to give you a serious case of the shivers, it turns out that the crime is related to another crime that happened many years ago and which Connie’s father may or may not be involved in. Well, at least that explains his strange behaviour! As the village is rocked by one of the worst storms in history, Connie desperately tries to put together the pieces of this puzzle that coincides with her injury and subsequent amnesia to bring whoever is responsible to justice. Armed with a new friend, Harry, whose father is missing and also thought to be a part of this incident years ago, it is a tense and exciting struggle to unravel the mystery before anyone else goes missing or is hurt – a dangerous and very real possibility.
This novel is as exciting and mysterious as it sounds. I loved the character of Connie, an independent and intelligent young woman who is more than capable of dealing with her problems rather than collapsing in a heap of misery to await the arrival of a prince. I found the taxidermy parts absolutely fascinating and thought it was a lovely touch by the author to put a quote from “Taxidermy: or, the art of collecting, preparing, and mounting objects of natural history,” by Mrs R. Lee at certain points through the novel:
“We then unite the skin by sewing it as we have said before, separating the feathers at each stitch: we furnish the orbits with chopped cotton, which we introduce with small forceps, rounding the eyelids well, we then place the eyes, introducing them under the eyelids, and when a part of the nictating membrane appears below, we mush push it in with the point of the needle; that the eye may remain in place.”
The author increases the tension even further by including several short and eerie pieces by the perp who believe me, is not somebody you want to get on the wrong side of! In fact, I have little negative to say about this novel apart from the fact that I found all the male characters to be inter-changeable and at times, because of this, I struggled to place who a particular character was in relation to their back story. Apart from this, The Taxidermist’s Daughter was a really interesting and fun read that I raced through in order to find out just what on earth was going on! Let me know if you enjoyed it too.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):