Last Thursday I started reading Kate Mosse’s latest book The Taxidermist’s Daughter (TTD). I studied medieval heresy at University so Mosse’s previous books, Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel had intrigued and thrilled me. I love the subject matter and loved how she wove her tales around the history and geography of the Languedoc region. I wasn’t sure whether Mosse’s writing would hold my interest with this new tale.
The Taxidermist’s daughter is 22 year old Constantia Gifford who lives with her father in a decaying house in Fishbourne on the outskirts of Chichester. The stuffed birds her father made his name by are out of fashion, leaving Gifford a bitter man fond of a drink or two. A childhood accident has left Connie with few memories of her childhood. The book covers just a few days as actions of the past come back to haunt people and Connie tries to make sense of resurfacing memories, strangers watching the house, anonymous notes, missing people and a murdered woman.
The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a great example of a modern day gothic novel. Mosse is fantastic at creating the sense of a place and using the weather and foreboding presence of the birds to create a mood comparable with those of Daphne Du Maurier. Something I feel is important to say early on in this review is I knew exactly where this book was going, what had happened in the past and what the climax was going to be but that didn’t matter I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.
My one criticism is that I wanted more from it. There are a number of key characters in this book, major players in the game that is at play and I felt more time could have been given to developing their characters and giving more depth to the story. The crux of the tale is a horrid event years earlier when Connie was just a child, given its importance I felt more attention should have been given to the re-telling of this. But given the nature of it was Mosse to afraid to go to such a dark place.
Once of my favourite books is The Glassbooks of the Dream Eaters by G.W. Dahlquist. I think Mosse could take a leaf out of his book on how to give a reader enough detail of debauchery, sordidness and death to bring the story alive and peak our interest without causing us to feel uncomfortable or making us want to stop reading. There is a darkness at the centre of this book which I feel could be drawn out more.
And yet, I started it on Thursday and I finished it on Sunday. There are enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages and if like me you work the general plot out there is still enjoyment in seeing just how it pans out. Not as intense or historical as Mosse’s other books this was actually just the book I need to break a long cycle of not reading.