I worked for a while at Liverpool Museum, where I met a taxidermist. I was fascinated by this unusual and old-fashioned skill and eventually talked him into showing me how he worked. He was very reluctant to let me see the gruesome process, but he did eventually. More than being horrified by the skinning and scraping of body parts, I was completely absorbed by the way a corpse could be once again be brought to life (almost).
So it was was with great interest that I read this novel. Immediately I was hooked by the strange, almost pagan tradition that the locals undertook on a particular date, at midnight. It was atmospheric and haunting and I was expecting to read about a ghost. What happened instead was a murder.
There is moorland, secrets, crows - the symbolic birds along with magpies and ravens, lonely nights and strangers. A broken father who turns to drink because he cannot face an horrific truth. There is an air of Victorian attitudes and sinister goings-on, things nobody talks about.
The big old house, complete with the stuffed animals, gives an almost gothic feel, too. Mosse's clear and original prose captures the mood very well. The descriptions of stuffing a crow were highly detailed and had me on edge, even more so as the bird also reappears as a motif throughout.
The ending was unexpected. Everything is revealed and tied up and is truly shocking. However, it felt to me as if it was a little gratuitous, maybe, definitely sensational. Unusual and weird but somehow I felt disappointed. I suppose I was looking for something predictable, like a tormented soul. In a way though, it was exactly that.
A wonderful writer and an original story.
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