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.
‘The Taxidermist’s Daughter’ by Kate Mosse [UK: Orion] Buy here
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