The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a very different novel from Kate Mosse’s Carcassonne trilogy. This time she explores the village of Fishbourne in West Sussex just before the outbreak of World War I.
It is 1912 and young Connie Gifford struggles with fleeting images of the first 12 years of her life, which she has no memory of, after she suffered a trauma falling down the stairs. The memories are starting to return, however, but Connie can make no sense of them. She lives a lonely life with her widowed father at Blackthorn House on the edge of the village, with only a housemaid, Mary, for female company. Gifford, Connie’s father, has become a depressed alcoholic who mutters incoherently, and his daughter has been forced to take over his struggling taxidermy business.
A sequence of events takes place over a few days, which at first seem to bear no relation to one another: a dead woman is found floating in the stream by Connie’s house; a local man is being paid to watch the Gifford house, but we don’t know why; and then Connie’s father and the local doctor go missing. As the stormy weather moves in, Connie realises that she is embroiled in something dark and foreboding and, along with the doctor’s son, Harry, she seeks to find out the truth.