Review : The Taxidermist ‘ s Daughter by Kate Mosse

download (2)Plot Summary :

It is the year 1912 . Connie Gifford lives in the BlackThorne House in Fishbourne with her father , a taxidermist  ( although he prefers to go by the title ‘STUFFER OF BIRDS ‘ ) of some reputation during Connie ‘ s childhood . Not that Connie has several memories of them both from those early days –  she lost her childhood memories following an accident when she was twelve . It is like a slate that has been wiped clean .

Following the custom of the ‘ sightings of the ghosts of those who are destined to die in the coming year ‘ in the churchyard on St . Mark ‘ s Eve  , Gifford ‘ s behavior has become stranger and his actions even more unpredictable . Connie has got used to her father ‘ s unpredictable ways but now he is exhibiting signs of being tormented by some deeply seated secret – sorrow . Then , the body of a young woman turns up in the stream near their home with a garrotte of taxidermist ‘ s wire . . . There are the fleeting bursts of memories from the past which she refers to the ‘ vanished days ‘ . And  there are people from the past – whom Connie is slowly starting to remember and the events of the day of the accident . . . How much does she actually know ? ?

Alternatively , we are seeing the written confession of a murderess who is determined to bring some men to justice . Her murders are macabre to say the least . . . Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned  WRONGED too , perhaps ? Who is she ? What is she killing for ? And who are her victims actually ? What connection does she have to the Giffords ??

My thoughts on the book :

The coastal Fishbourne with the flood waters rising due to the torrential rains threatening to drown the village , the BlackThorne house itself which is presented as being somewhat sinister and definitely the murders  : all of these capture the Gothic essence perfectly . Fishbourne , being the author ‘ s birthplace has detailed and beautiful descriptions on the landscape , the flora and the fauna . . . Perhaps , the landscape and the atmosphere sketches of the Fishbourne are the strongest points of the book . But , being a non – native speaker I can ‘ t say I identified some species mentioned . So , the landscape does not paint itself before my eyes in great detail like the author wished for – entirely my misfortune .  [ Tried looking up Google for some names but gave up when it became somewhat distracting – the things we need to do . . . ] 

Despite some great writing , The Taxidermist ‘s Daughter suffers from a story – line riddled with  several loose ends & some glaring logical plot – holes which the author has not bothered to elaborate on . . . There are actually several questions which come up once the reader takes a harder look at the events described . It has nothing to with the fact that we are reading about a string of murders in 1912 in a remote coastal village – I am not dismissing the feasibility of the events due to the fact that they might seem improbable by today ‘ s standards .

/ * Spoilers ahead . . . * /

Some of the questions which I jotted down once I finished reading the book – 

  • The murderess gets her hand on Connie ‘ s journal . How could she possibly get the notebook which is in the BlackThorne House ? Does she have an accomplice inside the house ?
  • Two characters get access to the mounting wire from the BlackThorne House ( We can safely assume that it is from the Gifford place because Connie remembers the  nail which usually held the wire did not have the mounting wire one fine day . . . It is also emphasized that it cannot be bought easily nowadays as taxidermy had become an – almost – dead trade . . . Again , the same question : Who is the in – house accomplice ? )
  • The murderess says that her accomplice has the task of returning the diary to the Gifford place once she has finished her business . . . Assuming that the same accomplice got the diary  from BlackThorne House , why is there not a single visit from him / her to the house ? Does the accomplice have telepathic powers ? ?
  • Gifford implies that he has some connection to the THEMIS COTTAGE  . . . Connie , on the other hand does not show any such signs when she visits there . . . Even if we can assume that it so due to the fact that she has lost her childhood memories , the author has not bothered to explain what is the connection between Gifford himself and the place . There is not even a clandestine visit by Gifford to the place . . . Even if it had been rented out by the anonymous owner ( Gifford ??  /  X ?? ) , how come the real – estate broker victim not have an iota of doubt about the ownership ?
  • When the binoculars you use to  spy on a neighborhood property goes missing ( and especially when you are being paid to keep watch on the place / people ) , don ‘ t you make atleast a passing reference about them even if it is only to the readers ?
  • How did the murderess get the equipments for the murders , considering that they are no ordinary murders ?
  • And finally the big question – Is it so easy as to evade any sort of attention of yourself , even if it is an isolated property in a little coastal village ? Don ‘ t people / shopkeepers get curious when somebody buy candles in large quantities to light up probably , an entire room or two ? Even if a shopkeeper can put down that purchase to the preparations of surviving the floods , will not a new arrival in town excite any interest ? ?

After reading Christie , I knew one thing : In a village  , everything is everybody ‘ s business . . . Did  Christie make her village like that so that every observant person out there has some clue to offer to Miss Marple ? I am not able to answer this one but a thing I can say with certainty is that , Kate Mosse has made her Fishbourne people very decent folks who are least bothered about what ‘ s happening with the neighbor . . .

See this ? Finally , the reader is left working out the preparations for the crime because the author has glossed over the details of the preparation for the crime ( and even the methods in some places ) . The circumstances too , seem almost too fantastic : they always favor the murderess , while seeming too fantastical to do so in the first place . . . Without going into the details of the preparations , one wonders how the lady was able to pull off not one , but four very grisly murders . . .

Should the reader convince oneself that in a crime of retribution , there is some divine intervention and mercy to see the murderess through  to the very end ? Perhaps , the author expects the reader to . . . The interesting premise has been squandered with some sub-par plotting . . .

P . S : My only wonder is how this book got a decent review from the critics in some leading newspapers . . .

For my readers , I have only one thing to say : Don ‘ t bother with this one . . .

Until the next review then . . .


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