Blood, skin, bone.
This refrain passes through like an old haunt throughout this dark and Gothic tale. The story opens in a churchyard, where villagers watch and wait to see the ghosts that will enter the church, omens of what is to be expected in that year.
Connie Gifford is a young woman who lives in an ageing house with an ailing father, driven to drink by an event that Connie can no longer remember. Time and again she tries to coax the truth out of him, but to no avail. The only times he is conscious of her asking her such a question, he begs her to not remember. Her father used to be a taxidermist and Connie learns his skills, the art of preserving even after death, even when things seem lost.
Later on we meet Harry Woolston, a man - quite simply - looking out for his father after his father displays some unexpected behaviour. His path crosses with Connie's and they quickly become friends, although neither could expect just how much they are already entangled in each other's lives.
The plot thumps along like a heartbeat, racing at some points and slowing down in others although the tension is always there on the edge. Place and characters are crafted with equal care and, as the mystery unravels, the reader is left with mingled revulsion and fascination for the turning out of events.
There are places in this book which demand a strong stomach. The mystery letters written at the start of each part, reveal the hidden character's thirst for justice - justice, not revenge - although it is a while before we learn for what. Once we know, it's almost as if we wish we didn't. What is seen cannot be unseen, and all of that.
This is a spooky, atmospheric tale that grips the imagination and demands your attention from the off. These sleepy towns hide much more than appearances suggest, and the mystery, buried for so many years, is about to finally come to light, for good or for ill.