The year is 1912 when we meet Connie, the taxidermist’s daughter and main character of this rather ghoulish but very original murder mystery. Connie has post-traumatic stress disorder, an alcoholic father (also with PTSD that he self-medicates with alcohol), a rambling old Sussex house that is prone to tidal flooding and no female friends, nor relatives. There is also mention of a great trauma where Connie fell down a flight of stairs and the vague recollection of a woman’s name. Connie’s trauma has resulted in a slowly returning memory; episodic glimpses into the past. She is also a dab hand at avian taxidermy herself and by the end of the book, readers know more about taxidermy than you may wish.
When the body of a dead woman is found by Connie floating in the river near her house, she gets help from a young artist, Harry. Harry is looking for his father who has gone missing, as has Connie’s, coincidentally. As the linkages between all of these characters is revealed, the unlikely story behind the young woman’s murder leads to a decades-old series of events and an even more grisly find.
The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a ludicrous story, and yet utterly believable. As with any murder mystery, it is the unanticipated twists and happenings that make this a great book. Of course it’s satisfying to slowly work out the sequences, but there is a touch of macabre in the methods. As unbelievable as the individual events might be, I was entranced by Kate Mosse’s story-telling.