Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
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 Noemí’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.
Can’t believe it took me this long to read this one!
I haven’t reviewed a book in a really long time (early days of the pandemic), but if you were around way back when, you might remember my review of Gods of Jade and Shadow. That was my first trip into the wonderful story-telling of Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and I have to say she did NOT disappoint with trip number two! Mexican Gothic has basically solidified Moreno-Garcia as one of my favorite authors. She’s managed to pull me out of months-long reading hiatus, and gotten me back into reviews almost a year after my last one!
Mexican Gothic follows ambitious socialite Noemi who gets sent by her father to visit her cousin, Catalina, after they receive a disturbing message from her. They haven’t seen her since she went to live with her new husband in a remote house at the top of a mountain, and Noemi eagerly takes up the mystery, determined to help Catalina any way she can.
Early on in the story, we get a very clear picture of who Noemi is – adventurous, ambitious, friendly, intelligent. She’s everything she needs to be to get what she wants, and I really enjoyed that about her. Though she’s thrown into a world she doesn’t quite fit into – High Place, the mansion her cousin lives in, is full of rules that go against everything Noemi is – she adapts quickly, and uses every bit of her charm and determination to navigate the situation. As a heroine, she’s someone that’s easy to root for. That’s not to say she’s perfect – Noemi has her flaws, but they only serve to flesh out her character more, and to make her more likeable.
Gothic stories aren’t ones that I’ll usually seek out, but the atmosphere of this one sucked me right in and now it’s become a favorite. I don’t want to give too much away, but atmosphere was everything to me in this story. Moreno-Garcia expertly builds a tension that follows from page to page, taking the reader along for the ride with Noemi. The setting is as much a character as the people too – from Mexico City, to the town of El Triunfo, all the way up to High Place. Everything in the story oozed character, to the point where I found myself re-reading passages just for the fun of it. And the imagery – it gave me nightmares! I haven’t read a book that left that kind of impression on me in a very long time.
This book had me on the edge of my seat with every page turn, and I haven’t felt this invested in the lives of a set of characters in a very long time. Noemi and Catalina weren’t the only ones, either. I’ve never wished for the death of a fictional character more than I wanted the majority of the Doyles to die.
None of this is even mentioning the heavier topics Moreno-Garcia touches on in the story. Eugenics and colonialism play a large part, lending a dimension of real horror and tragedy to the story that goes far beyond the horrendous happenings within High Place. Between all the elements weaved into it, this a tale I’ll be thinking about for months to come.
So if you’re looking for a book to add to your list (especially with October just around the corner) – definitely give Mexican Gothic a go. You won’t regret it!