I will say up front that the taxidermy sections were too much for me, too much gory detail. That aside, this is a mystery set in the South Coast marshes of Fishbourne in 1912. In fact it seemed timeless, difficult to place the action only two years prior to the outbreak of the Great War. The weather is ever-present to set the tone of the story: wind, rain and storms and Fishbourne is a real place. Kate Mosse, a Chichester resident, uses her local knowledge to good effect. But, I struggled to connect with the story and cannot put my finger on why.
The storyline focuses on 22-year old Connie Gifford and her father, the taxidermist and his daughter, who live in an isolated house on the marshes at Fishbourne. In the Prologue, the village gathers in the churchyard to celebrate the Eve of St Mark. At the end of the evening, a woman is dead. So, already there is one dead woman and some secrets. Connie, it turns out, had an accident 10 years earlier and she has no memory either of what happened that day or of her life prior to the accident… more secrets. Are the two events, 10 years apart, connected? Are the same people involved? And if Connie’s memory returns, will she have the answer to the odd goings-on?
I admit to losing track of some of the peripheral characters who, unlike the atmospheric setting, are not fully-rounded. It is a strange book, taxidermy is a rather odd subject [and risky in that it will deter some readers from even picking up the book] although it adds to the theme of reality versus false reality. There are lies between family and friends, lies between rich and poor; it is not only the guilty who lie, there are also secrets meant to protect the innocent. Amnesia is a difficult plot technique to use, too often it leaves the reader feeling cheated. I found the story rather drawn-out, the longer it went on the less mysterious it got. A note about front cover design. This [above] is my hardback copy, a beautiful design of feathers and a solitary bird skull. Perhaps the bird skull was decided to be too gory. The paperback edition [top] is more in keeping with the atmospheric seaside setting. Interesting also that the cover line ‘In death there can be beauty’ is missing from the paperback, to me the line felt incongruous given that the novel deals with murder, assault and torture.
If you like creepy mysterious stories, try:-
‘The Threshold’ by Anita Kovacevic
‘The House on Cold Hill’ by Peter James
‘The Man in the Picture’ by Susan Hill
‘The Taxidermist’s Daughter’ by Kate Mosse [UK: Orion] Buy here
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE TAXIDERMIST’S DAUGHTER by Kate Mosse #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Rx
Thanks for this, Sandra, my husband bought me this as a Valentine’s Day present, so I will read it – but I was interested to read your review.
Kate Mosse is one of my favourite authors. Have you read ‘The Winter Ghosts’? SD
I was lucky enough to nab a paperback copy for 50p just after it came out, but haven’t had time to read it. (The same day I got Alan Clark’s three paperback diaries, also 50p each. Goodness knows when I’ll have time to read them either.) I can’t decide whether that wonderful Mary’s Meal’s charity shop is a curse or a blessing – I always come back with something! Taxidermy was coming back into fashion recently. We had the head of a fox mounted, the last one my father shot before we moved to our current farm, on an island which is free of foxes. I loved it, but my mother took it down a few years ago as she said some teeth had fallen out, and it was getting rather mangy looking! I’d love to get it sorted before it gets worse. I do want to read this, but I agree with your comment about memory loss – I was one of the minority who disliked Before I Go To Sleep. I have The House On Cold Hill too, although I prefer reading spooky stuff in the winter months! As soon as I can squeeze it in, though, I shall read this. Super review, Sandra, as usual!
Yes, taxidermy is a Marmite thing. And it didn’t stop me reading the book 🙂 SD
It certainly would be a bizarre career choice – perhaps it’s one that runs in families, like being an undertaker? A boy I was in school with is an undertaker, and he must have learnt it from someone outside his family. He must be very good, as I always see notices in the paper after a death, and he’s always thanked for his “sensitive and kind” services. He was rather wild at school, too! I’d love to ask him about the job!
Why don’t you, could be a novel there… inspiration strikes in unforeseen places! SD