First Sentence: Midnight.
Constantia Gifford and her father, a once-famous taxidermist who fell into disgrace, lives with her father on the edges of town in Blackthorn House. No one talks about the cause of the disgrace, nor about Connie’s childhood accident which left her without any memory of the days before it occurred. A mysterious woman, who appears the in graveyard during the traditional St. Mark’s Eve gathering and is later found dead, triggers something in Connie. Who is watching her? Why has her father suddenly retreated into himself? Is there a secret in the house itself?
Sometimes a prologue really does work. This one does. It is dark, atmospheric and a bit horrible. Yet, thru it all, there’s Connie. Her concern for her father and her curiosity overcome any fear she may have cause us to admire her.
Connie is an excellent character. She’s intelligent, strong, and someone who has had to learn to be independent. Davey, a young village lad, may be one of the most appealing characters come across in awhile. Harry Woolston, a portrait artist is interesting as we’re not entirely certain how trustworthy he is.
This is a book that is very hard to describe, and about which one doesn’t want to say too much. One really will appreciate the map included at the beginning. However, speaking of descriptions, those concerning the techniques of taxidermy can be both difficult, yet fascinating, to read.
Mosse truly provides a strong sense of time and place. It was interesting to see how set the classes were. Someone in a lower position didn’t even consider intruding, in any way, on someone in the class above them. The levels were very strictly defined and adhered to. And weather; weather plays a very important role. It is that, most particularly, that gives the real gothic feel to the story.
“The Taxidermist’s Daughter” has a wonderful buildup of suspense and danger. It has the feel of an old-fashioned Gothic thriller with excellent revelations and a nice surprise at the end.
THE TAXIDERMIST’S DAUGHTER (Hist Mys-Connie Gifford-England-1912) – VG
Mosse, Kate – Standalone
Wm Morrow, 2016 (U.S. release)