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The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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John Whaler

This a dark and stormy tale. The reader should be braced to face the unrelenting violence and upheaval of the elements, with a capturing tale of macabre murders, bizarre twists, guilty secrets, homicidal retribution, and gristly disposals. "The drowning world", as the writer so aptly tells us. It is perhaps appropriate that we are reassured in the acknowledgements that this is pure fiction, and that such elemental violence and destruction never took place however it is certainly interwoven into the narrative with great skill, intensity and tension.

Set in Sussex 1912 in Chichester and deep within the Fishbourne marshes, the novel catches the reader from the opening, with the raw mystery of the scene of dark superstition and expectation of unseen murder, all cloaked by mass human and avian activity. One is hooked, despite rather conradian overstatement of the background turbulence and gloom.

Connie Gifford, living with her embittered father "with only his accusing thoughts for company" struggles to piece together the faded fragments of loves and attachments in her amnesia-broken life, all brought to an angry and dramatic resolution.

The surgical precision and expertise of the taxidermist never leave us, and punctuate this strong and pacy story right to the horrific discoveries within the conclusion. A grim read some may say, but one that remains in the mind. There are no idle pages.

Linda Sankey

I found this book to be a roller coaster ride through a dark and brooding story of murder, retribution, revenge, justice and secrets. It is well written. Mosse glides between each scenario of characters and Connie and keeping you always in suspense, increasing the tension brilliantly while you try to piece together the clues which led to the murderous event.

The story centres on Connie the daughter of a failed and troubled Taxidermist, Gifford. She lives with all that is left of her father’s business.

In the year 1912 he is summoned to the graveyard in the village of Fishbourne where he meets with a clandestine group to witness a brutal murder. The sense of menace is never far away as the story unfolds and the culprit is finally exposed.

I found the characters to be well interwoven into the story and believable.

My attention was held from the first page and gave me a very good read which I could not put down. I even learned a lot about Taxidermy with Mosse’s descriptive paragraphs of its art and skills. If you are not too squeamish and like a good thriller then I would recommend this book.

Brenda Sparrow

I have not before read any books by Kate Mosse and it took me a little while to get in to her style of writing.

Initially I found the short opening chapters each introducing more characters was confusing and I had to keep referring back to see who was who. However as I got in to the quickly moving plot, with various events happening simultaneously I began to be drawn in to the story and as things unfolded I was reading “just one more chapter” as all good books make you.

The story was complex and drew you almost to the end before you could work out all the relationships and who carried out the murders.

My only criticism is that I found the detailed descriptions of taxidermy unpleasant. I was skipping them in the end and I don’t think I lost anything from the story by doing so.

I will certainly look for more titles by this author.

Brian Taylor

Set in Fishbourne, West Sussex, in 1912, this is a tale of crime and retribution in a gradually unfolding story which moves along at a sedate, yet engrossing pace. It is a book which you CAN put down, but always want to pick up again, such is the complexity of the story. It builds to a turbulent climax, where the characters are seen for what they really are and the various strands of the story are neatly tied up.

Not overly long, at 400-odd pages of easily readable print, the author employs short chapters and sub-chapters, using the simple device of changing locations to develop the various strands of the story.

All of the characters are believable as are their characteristics and manner. There are sections of the book describing taxidermy procedures, unusual, but ultimately essential as the reader will see.

Mosse does a good job of capturing the period and its mores. Her descriptive powers, of places, the sea and the weather and storms for example are excellent and add greatly to the enjoyment of a thoroughly readable book.

Pat Horne

To most of us taxidermy relates to the ancient Greek skill of preparing, stuffing and mounting of skins of animals for displacement, almost archaic by mode in standards and the results are often used as hunting Trophies. When one first opens and begins to read this book you begin to wonder if it is a voyage into the supernatural or superstitious primitive world of arcadia. It seems to be almost anti-Christ but ironically in this novel it is an Act of God, by way of tempestuous storms, that finally curtails the evil which meanders poisonously in and out of the story.

This novel, written by a very powerful story teller, succeeds in transporting us into another time and another world. It evolves over time when it becomes apparent that what has happened in the past filters through into the future.

The novel begins slowly but this builds up to a certain type of momentum held together with a vivid variety of characters.

I believe that this book will not be instantly to everyone’s taste but it does have a certain je ne sais quoi and a mounting expectation of what is to come.

Chris Gibson

There is murder, superstition and intrigue from the first pages of the novel. It revolves around Connie who continues with her father’s work as a taxidermist in a time when people had little interest in stuffed creatures. Connie had little memory prior to a time in her life when she had an accident following a traumatic incident. She searches to find out what happened.

There are frequent and informed references to taxidermy -many taken from a book published in 1820. The author’s interest in the subject is clear. Kate Mosse carefully interweaves this with the plot. There are many characters quickly introduced in the novel and at first there seems to be little connection between

them other than the vicinity in which they live. Suspense builds as connections are clarified.

The novel is beautifully written and fast paced. It takes place over just three days. It moves from one action packed scene to another culminating in a violent storm when the marshes begin to flood. It keeps the reader’s interest from the first page to the last.

Oonagh Beesley

I am not sure that this would be a book I would have chosen to read, I found the constant referral to the rain and floods very depressing. I had a nightmare after reading the chapter where Connie prepared the bird ready for the Taxidermy process! There were many characters introduced into the storyline but they did not have strong personalities and I found it hard to identify with them in the story. Even though the main story line concluded I feel that there were still loose ends that were unresolved.

Carol Gibbins

Kate Mosse has set her new novel in the Sussex of her childhood, inspired by visits to a museum of taxidermy. This gothic, psychological thriller is set in 1912, though it is not a historical novel and there is no realist narrative.

The heroine, Connie, is intelligent, practical and resourceful. At the opening of the novel she is suffering from memory loss caused by a fall 10 years ago. She is trying to keep up the family business - taxidermy -, deal with her father's drinking bouts and come to terms with her own disturbing flashbacks.

The scene is set in chapter 1 with the villagers outside the church awaiting the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year. Mosse creates the dark, sinister, ghoulish, creepy atmosphere with precision. The plot includes madness, mystery women, torture, revenge, sexual abuse. Connie lives in a house full of stuffed birds and we are treated to the gruesome details of taxidermy, reinforced with extracts from manuals of the time.

Connie finds a body and struggles to discover the murderer, her own lost memories re-emerging. Her discoveries lead her to even more horrific finds, while the flood waters rise to keep pace with the tension.

A great read.

Ann Livings

I was interested to read another of Kate Mosse's books, having read and enjoyed her Languedoc novels.

She has again used a setting which she knows and loves, having grown up in the Chichester area. She shows a great understanding of the atmosphere and lore of the area and uses this well. As she has previously quoted, she knows how to "Let your fiction grow out of the land beneath your feet' (Willa Cather).

I found this book more lightweight and not as well written as the Languedoc novels. Again she has drawn on mystery and the exploits of secret societies although without an in depth explanation of how they came to exist. She has created a book of suspense and gradual enlightenment which is easy to become engrossed in. I was not too keen on the descriptions of the art of taxidermy but I appreciated the depth of knowledge and understanding of her subject. Once again, an interesting read.

Julie Welsh

This is a brilliant Gothic, psychological thriller and Connie is the wonderful and strong character at the heart of the story. Connie has no memory of her early life following a terrible fall which left her incapacitated for a year with serious head injuries. She lives with her alcoholic father in a decaying house which once housed her fathers Taxidermy museum. Gifford, a now failed taxidermist, is haunted by past events. Connie now follows in her father’s work and is dedicated both to the work she loves, and helping her father. It’s an amazing, atmospheric and a totally gripping story, I found it difficult to put down. The Taxidermist's Daughter is part ghost story, part psychological thriller and will send shivers down your spine. This spooky and enthralling gothic thriller focuses on a village murder mystery. When Connie turns detective, she uncovers a network of intrigue and mystery.It’s very cleverly written and the build up to the final conclusion is so well done. The tension is drawn out to the very last page.

Throughout the book we see Connies memory gradually returning and the events leading up to her accident and she sets out to find out all she can about her late beloved Governess, Cassie. Along the way she meets the handsome Harry, son of the missing Dr Woolston, and Harry is searching for him.

I found the whole story utterly gripping and hard to put down, I read it within a few days once I got started. The pace gets faster and faster until, during a terrible storm the final piece of the jigsaw falls into place and Connie's memories come flooding back to her.

A brilliant read.

A highly recommended, well-priced book.

Elizabeth Kelso

Set in the Sussex marshes in 1912, Kate Mosse’s The taxidermist’s Daughter draws the reader immediately into a gothic tale of murder and revenge. The heroine Connie, the taxidermist’s daughter, lost her memory after a traumatic experience ten years before the story begins. The author builds suspense as the true horror of past events unfold. As Connie slowly regains her memory, the final denouement is both shocking and grotesque.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and as a fan of Kate Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy, I was not disappointed in this stand-alone thriller.

I particularly enjoyed how the involvement of the different characters in the plot was gradually revealed over the course of the book. The language and descriptions of the spring floods and storms on the marshes were so realistic that I could almost feel the flood waters around my ankles!

All in all an excellent read, Thank you Viking.

Terry Gibbs

A really captivating story which is set in a beautifully detailed background with well-placed and developed characters. I am familiar with the area in which this story is set and Kate Mosse setting of the scenes describes the countryside, towns and local villages wonderfully. An Interesting story which keeps the reader’s attention to the last with the intricate plot developments. Difficult to put down once started, well worth the read!

Mike Devitt

Although I knew that Kate Mosse was an internationally renowned, top-selling author, I had never read any of her work until I was given a copy of The Taxidermist’s Daughter – but now I have finished it, I can certainly see where her reputation as a powerful and imaginative story teller come from!

I was instantly plunged into a dark and troubled world, where the title character Connie – her memory damaged by a childhood trauma – is struggling to deal with her father whose behaviour is becoming more and more irrational, due to the ghosts of his past driving him to excessive drinking!

The sudden violent death of a woman in the churchyard sets in train a series of events which eventually fill in the missing details missing of events from Connie’s past – both for her and for the reader – but be warned they are dark and sometimes horrific!

The power of this book lies in Kate Mosse’s meticulous attention to details of time and place. We are transported back to early 20th century Sussex society and learn much [perhaps more than we want!] of taxidermy skills - while a gripping mystery unfolds! Highly recommended!

Penny Caudell

I must admit that I came to this book with some trepidation, especially as it had been described in the media as a gothic novel. I knew that Kate Mosse writes very well, but her Languedoc series had been spoilt for me by its supernatural elements, despite my fascination with this area of France and its history.

I am delighted to let you know that all my fears were unfounded. The language, as expected, was excellent - clear, complex, descriptive and atmospheric all at the same time. There are gothic elements, but no supernatural ones, but only because the subject of the novel is a series of grisly - but all too human - murders. The characters and setting - the watery world around Chichester - are believable and, therefore, the reader cares what happens next.

It is at the same time an historical novel (1913 but no mention of the war), descriptive and instructive (Mosse's interest in taxidermy), a crime novel but - above all and on a number of levels - a love story.

Against all expectations, I really enjoyed this book.

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