‘I know crows don’t go about in groups so much, but if there was to be a whole lot of them together, then what?’
‘A murder,’ she said. ‘It’s a murder of crows.’
1912. In a graveyard in Fishburne, Sussex, Connie Gifford watches anxiously for her father, who has congregated with the rest of the village on the Eve of St. Mark, when the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year are said to walk. A depressed alcoholic, he is haunted by the past – once a well-regarded and famed taxidermist, his museum has now closed. Connie has no recollection of this, as a childhood accident robbed her of most of her memories. As the bell strikes midnight, Connie leaves, reassured by her father’s departure, not hearing the scream. But by the next day, the corpse of a dead woman will be found in the marsh outside the Giffords’ house. And she won’t be the first to die.
The first chapter sets us up perfectly for what is a phenomenal gothic thriller. As Connie works hard to keep her household together and her father safe, she suspects the worst but has no idea of the horrific ten year old crime for which someone is now seeking a gruesome revenge. Guided only by terrifying flashbacks, and with the help of artist Harry who will himself uncover some disturbing paternal demons, she sets out to uncover the terrible events of the past. And all the while, the unseasonable weather causes the surrounding marshland to flood, putting them all in danger.
I have a confession to make. I have a copy of Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth which has been sitting on my bookshelf since before I went to university, and I’ve never got round to reading it. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of The Taxidermist’s Daughter earlier in autumn, and it did not disappoint. It’s a masterful novel – both haunting and heartwarming, and with fantastic characters who all feel remarkably real. I particularly loved Mary, the Giffords’ housemaid and Davey, the ‘lovable scamp’ who carves himself a space within the household. Connie however is the most terrific heroine, and I felt slightly disappointed whenever I was reading another character’s perspective. She’s brave, kind and willing to do what’s necessary to take care of father, from taking up taxidermy to misleading the police when the first body is discovered. As a slightly squeamish reader – I fainted whilst reading The Shining Girls – I was a little unnerved by the taxidermy scenes, but whilst explicit, they don’t feel gratuitous. The pace of The Taxidermist’s Daughter never lets up, and whilst I eventually started to work out what might have happened, nothing prepared me for the very grisly conclusion. Very pleased that I picked this up, and any fans of crime, gothic literature or just plain reading will love this.
The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse is out now, published by Orion Books