The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

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The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Author Kate Mosse's 8th fiction work is a Victorian novel about murder and missing memory wrapped in taxidermy and it's a scorcher. It's so good it distracted me from pining for the Languedoc Trilogy!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 978-1409153757

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Connie is the daughter of once renowned taxidermist Crowley Gifford. Times have changed though. Crowley may once have been famous with his own museum proudly exhibiting intricately prepared bird and animal tableaux but he's now addled by alcohol and deep melancholy, leaving Connie to continue the art in much reduced circumstances. A decade before Connie (then aged 10) had an accident that robbed her of her memory. The past refuses to stay hidden though, returning with a vengeance and explaining the shell that Crowley has become. 'A vengeance' isn't a throwaway choice of words either – its return will upturn all that Connie has believed and even threaten her life and the lives of all those whom she holds dear.

British author Kate Mosse shot to fame with her timeslip Languedoc Trilogy. Now, with her eighth work of fiction, she's shunned France, favouring instead small towns around Chichester. There is still a link with her past triumph: just as the trilogy was written as a love letter to her beloved Carcassonne, so The Taxidermist's Daughter is a love letter to her childhood in Fishbourne where she was first entranced by the stuffed animals in Walter Potter's Museum of Curiosities, planting a seed that has now germinated.

The Victorians with whom Kate populates her tale leap from the page. We feel for Connie as she labours to keep a roof over their heads while Crowley sinks further into depression and turpitude. Every day the 12-year hole in her memory taunts her as she realises it holds secrets. In this way she's an innocent in the middle of a conundrum that will suddenly explode, endangering her and her new friend (love interest alert!) local doctor's son, Henry Woolston.

The very sweet Henry proves that memory loss isn't required to be innocent of a father's past. In his case an unquenchable curiosity leading Henry to investigate further may be his downfall.

The structure of the novel is as engaging as the characters, each chapter interspersed with a section from the Victorian taxidermists' bible and a letter from an anonymous, ethereal hand. Indeed, this is a story that starts in a graveyard ensuring we Mosse fans are given our fix of other-worldliness.

Kate retains the air of mystery, leading us by our imaginations as she reveals enticing snippets that make the novel unputdownable right through to the end and that deviously concocted final twist. In fact the climax (and the multi-faceted tension it develops) is one of the most exciting I've read for a long time as Kate even enlists the weather to bring us closer to the edge of our collective seat.

Some twist-guessers may feel smug from time to time as they feel they can piece parts of the puzzle together but it'll be a while before even the most accomplished sees the whole picture.

One warning though: this isn't a story for the weak of stomach. Our kindly English rose of an author at one point comes over all Jeffery Deaver grisly. It's not gratuitous, being just what the story demands, but it may be uncomfortable reading for some.

I've read and enjoyed each novel that Kate has written but, up till now, have finished each either being grateful that it was the Languedoc Trilogy or wishing it was. However that has now changed. On finishing The Taxidermist's Daughter my reaction was a simple, heart-felt 'Wow!' Yes, the trilogy will always be there to revisit but this is the novel that's convinced me that it's time to move on as Ms Mosse's writing certainly has.

(Thank you very much Orion for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals, we recommend The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales Kate's book of short stories with ethereal twists. If you're already a fan and have read it, we also recommend Murder in Paradise by Alanna Knight.

Buy The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse at Amazon.com.


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