Book Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Literary Fiction
Pub Date: June 30, 2020
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
“I pray I’ll see you again. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.”
WHEW. You think you know where this book is going, and then it goes there. Mexican Gothic begins in such an unassuming way, where you think you’re walking into a traditional haunted house story, and then everything shifts to pull you under like a riptide that doesn’t loosen until you turn the final page. Before I dive into my review, I think it’s fair to note that the majority of this book is atmospheric, character driven, and the slowest burn imaginable; for me, this worked spectacularly well, as I love to feel completely absorbed into the narrative in horror novels. And yes friends, this is most definitely a horror novel. I’ll include content warnings in a spoiler tag below for those who are interested.
“Noemí’s father said she cared too much about her looks and parties to take school seriously, as if a woman could not do two things at once.”
Maybe the reason why this slow burn worked so well for me is because I instantly connected with Noemí; she is confident, intelligent, and the life of the party. When her father receives a suspicious letter from Noemí’s cousin, Catalina, he sends Noemí to investigate and report back. As expected, everyone involved gets more than they bargained for, and what begins as a handful of unusual occurrences slowly morphs into a whirlwind of horrifying circumstances.
“This house, she was sure, was haunted. She wasn’t one for believing in things that go bump in the night either, but right that second she firmly felt every spook and demon and evil thing might be crawling about the earth, like in Catalina’s stories.”
One of the things I loved the most about this story is how vastly different the haunted house felt. The author has successfully blended the traditional aspects of the old, decrepit, ghost filled residence and a new, more modern aspect, one I won’t go into detail of for fear of spoiling the big twist. I think she nailed it on the head when she stated in her Goodreads interview that this book is for the reader who is both classy and trashy, because it has the high entertainment value that fast fiction lovers rejoice in, but it is also filled with beautifully devastating prose. If you, too, have a love affair with all things that go bump in the night, Mexican Gothic should be your top priority this summer. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to those who have a desire to spend long hours in a derelict house and an iron stomach.
“The truth was she was afraid of going to bed, of what nightmares might uncoil in the dark. What did people do after witnessing the horrors they had seen? Was it possible to slip back into normality, to play pretend and go on? She wanted to think this was exactly the case, but she was afraid sleep would prove her wrong.”
*Content Warning: (view spoiler)
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.