Thursday 18 September 2014

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

Sussex, 1912.
In a churchyard, villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year are thought to walk. Here, where the estuary leads out to the sea, superstitions still hold sway.
Standing alone is the taxidermist's daughter. At twenty-two, Constantia Gifford lives with her father in a decaying house: it contains all that is left of Gifford's once world-famous museum of taxidermy. The stuffed birds that used to grace every parlour are out of fashion, leaving Gifford a disgraced and bitter man. The string of events that led to the museum's closure are never spoken of and an accident has robbed Connie of any memory of those days.
The bell begins to toll and all eyes are fixed on the church. No one sees the gloved hands holding a garotte. As the last notes fade into the dark, a woman lies dead.
While the village braces itself against rising waters and the highest tide of the season, Connie struggles to discover who is responsible - and why the incident is causing memories to surface from her own vanished years. Does she know the figure she sees watching from the marshes? Who is the mysterious caller that leaves a note without being seen? And what is the secret that lies at the heart of Blackthorn House, hidden among the bell jars of her father's workshop?
The Taxidermist's Daughter is the stunning new novel from the multi-million copy bestselling author, Kate Mosse.

The Taxidermist's Daughter was published by Orion on 11 September 2014 in hardback.

I have been a fan of Kate Mosse for many years. Her novel Labyrinth sat unread on my shelf for a long time before I took the plunge and read it. I had avoided that huge tome for so long, it's historical fiction and I really didn't think that it would be my thing. I was completely hooked and everything else was left unattended whilst I feverishly read it. I was equally transfixed by the next two in the series; Sepulchre and Citadel. More recently, I read her collection of short stories; The Mistletoe Bride, and although very different to the Langeudoc trilogy, it is a fabulous collection of stories.

The Taxidermist's Daughter opens on the Eve of St Mark, 1912 in a churchyard in the small village of Fishbourne in Sussex. It is the night when, according to local superstition, the ghosts of those who will die in the next year will walk.  Connie is the Taxidermist's Daughter and has followed her father to the graveyard, she hides as she watches a group of men, some local, some strangers, gather as the church bell rings.

Connie and her father lead a lonely life in Blackthorn House. Her father, the taxidermist is a strange man, prone to drink and difficult to live alongside. Connie has mastered his art and continues to stuff birds and animals whilst battling with half-memories from her 'lost time'. Connie had an accident when she was twelve-years-old, when her father ran the successful museum of taxidermy ‘Gifford’s World Famous House of Avian Curiosities’. Connie cannot recall anything of her life before the accident, and her father is loathe to speak about it. The museum is no more, except for the few items that they brought with them when they moved to Fishbourne.

When the body of a woman is discovered in the river, Connie is convinced that she was murdered. However, the death certificate is signed, blamed on suicide and no more is spoken about the unfortunate woman. For Connie, this is just the beginning and as the tides rise, the wind blows and the rain falls, she becomes embroiled in a mystery that spans many years.

As Kate Mosse made the region of Carcassonne one of the major characters of the Langeudoc trilogy, she has done the same with this bleak landscape of West Sussex. The author's knowledge and love for the area shines through in her outstanding and wonderfully crafted words. The tiny village of Fishbourne, with its varied and colourful characters is vividly portrayed.  The art of taxidermy becomes a fascinating aspect of the story, detailed and quirky explanations of Connie's work, helped along by quotes from 'Taxidermy: Or, The Art of Collecting, Preparing, and Mounting Objects of Natural History' by Mrs R Lee.

Whilst not as long as some of Kate Mosse's previous novels, The Taxidermist's Daughter is a complex and utterly compelling read. The pace of the story increases rapidly as the story unfolds and the character of Connie has been perfectly created. She is vibrant, intelligent and constantly curious.

This is a gothic, psychological thriller that is just perfectly written. The mystery of  Connie's accident, combined with the recent murder of a young woman are intricately interwoven, producing a story that is both stunning and surprising in turns.

Huge thanks to Gaby Young from Orion who sent my copy for review.

Kate Mosse is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 42 languages. Her novels include: Labyrinth (2005); Sepulchre (2007); The Winter Ghosts (2009); and Citadel (2012). Her most recent fiction was The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013), an acclaimed collection of short stories.
Kate is the co-founder and Chair of the Board of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (previously the Orange Prize) and in June 2013 was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to literature.
For more information, visit her website
Visit her Author Facebook Page
Follow her on Twitter @katemosse

1 comment:

  1. I like Kate Mosse's books. Not sure about taxidermy though :) I shall look out for this one, perhaps a book group read for the future.