The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse
Published in 20014 by Orion
My copy: Library
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.
Earlier this year I went to a writing workshop run by Kate Mosse, and at the event she spoke a lot about her writing process, as well as about this book. From that day I’ve been really keen to read this. I have read only one of Mosse’s novels prior to this and quite enjoyed it (The Winter Ghosts), so I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.
From the very first page, this book has a creepy, sinister feel to it, which continues throughout the novel. The setting is bleak and Connie’s story is shrouded in mystery, confused as she is about the first 12 years of her life which she has completely forgotten. She lives with her father who is a drunk, and is very isolated from the rest of the community.
The book kicks off almost straight away with a murder, which Connie soon becomes embroiled in when the body turns up near her property. Alongside this, we get to meet several of the men that live nearby, several of whom seem to have something to hide.
I actually found all these different male characters in the book to be quite confusing – it was very difficult to differentiate between them and I was frequently not quite sure who was who. However I did like the character of Connie, who seemed very independent and capable, and I enjoyed reading about the strained relationship she had with her father.
However the mystery that was central to this novel never quite clicked into place for me. It was fairly clear early on roughly what was happening, and there weren’t really any major plot twists or turns. I found myself a bit bored at times as the book flitted from character to character who, other than Connie and her father, I was pretty disinterested in. The whole thing was a bit of a slog, as well as quite gruesome and depressing and I found myself rushing to finish it as there was little to keep me interested.
I thought the novel’s setting worked well, and I liked the gloomy, gothic atmosphere of the book. However the story just didn’t work for me and the male characters who were so important to the plot weren’t portrayed well at all I didn’t think.
I have to say this hasn’t persuaded me to try out any other Mosse novels, despite the good things I have heard about them! She is clearly a fantastic writer but maybe gothic historical murder mysteries aren’t my thing!