15 March 2018


  • this edition published by Orion Books UK 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-5376-4
  • source: my local library
  • 409 pages
  • author website: http://www.katemosse.co.uk
 Synopsis (author website)

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream . . .1912. A Sussex churchyard.

Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years . . . 

My Take

This is not a novel for the faint hearted: gothic and gruesome.

Something that she barely remembers, a fall down some stairs over a decade ago, has robbed Connie Gifford of her memory, and left her in "delicate" health, with occasional petit mal seizures. About the same time as her accident her father lost his taxidermy business and Cassie, an older girl whom she vaguely remembers, disappeared from her life. She thinks Cassie may have died.

The book opens at midnight on 24th April 1912, at the Church of St Peter & St Mary in the Fishbourne Marshes of Sussex. This is the Eve of St. Mark when the ghosts of those destined to die in the coming year will be seen walking into the church at the turning of the hour. Connie has followed her father to the church and sees him meeting some men whom he knows. They are looking for someone Is she here? and as the bell begins to toll, the door of the church is flung wide, and a cloud of small birds flies out. No-one sees the murder take place. A week later a body floats up in the marshes.

Connie has learnt the art of taxidermy from her father and at times produces stuffed birds for sale. So there are descriptions of her at work, which helps the reader understand later events in the novel.

Connie's father has kept a secret since the night of Connie's accident, a secret that involves the four men who have met him in the church yard. An event that has occurred in the previous week holds out the promise that their secret may remain buried forever, but only her father suspects that what they have been told is not true. And is the secret still safe with him?

This novel has a very black feel about it - there is a lot of darkness, a lot of rain. Gradually we are able to piece the puzzle together.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Kate Mosse is the author of six novels & short story collections, including the No 1 multi-million selling Languedoc Trilogy - Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel - and No 1 bestselling Gothic fiction including The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist's Daughter, which she is currently adapting for the stage. Her books have been translated into 37 languages and published in more than 40 countries. She has also written three works of non-fiction, four plays and is curating a collection of short stories inspired by Wuthering Heights to celebrate the 200 anniversary of Emily Bronte's birth in 2018. Her documentary on the writer & classicist Helen Waddell will be broadcast by the BBC in 2018.
A champion of women's creativity, Kate is the Founder Director of the Women's Prize for Fiction - the largest annual celebration of women's writing in the world - and sits on the Executive Committee of Women of the World. She was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to literature and women and was named Woman of the Year for her service to the arts in the Everywoman Awards. Deputy Chair of the National Theatre in London, Kate hosts the pre & post performance interview series at Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, Platform Events for the National Theatre in London, as well interviewing writers, directors, campaigners and actors at literary and theatre festivals in the UK and beyond.
Kate divides her time between Chichester in West Sussex and Carcassonne in the southwest of France. She is now working on the next novel in 'The Burning Chambers' series, The City of Tears - set in Paris, La Rochelle and Amsterdam - for publication in May 2020.

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