“This was lovely. Reminded me of the old Mary Stewart romance mysteries mixed with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian horror–in other words, a classic Gothic horror romance, told with perfect skill and elan. Can’t say I’m surprised though: Moreno-Garcia is a master who writes with a deft hand and a flare for beautifully evocative details. Seriously loved everything about it, which was so engaging I read the whole thing last night.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
If ever there was an award for most succinctly descriptive title, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia would be a deserved winner. This darkly atmospheric, lushly written Gothic horror set in Mexico starts at a slow burn but steadily ramps up the tension and darkens the mood leaving the reader as trapped as the central character, unable to put the book down.
While there are echoes of classics like Rebecca ,The Yellow Wallpaper and Jane Eyre, the horror element adds another dimension and makes for a truly chilling and at times genuinely unsettling book.
In 1950’s Mexico sassy socialite Noemi has nothing more pressing to worry about than which outfit to wear to her next social engagement and how to avoid pressure from her rather more traditional father who thinks its time for her to settle down. When she receives a garbled and disturbing letter from her recently married cousin, Catalina, begging for help and implying that her husband is poisoning her, Noemi travels to High Place, the remote estate where Catalina now lives with her husband’s family. From the outset she feels that something is very wrong, from the rather chilly welcome to the library filled with books on eugenics and the strict house rules that seem designed to isolate her as much as possible , and when Catalina’s husband starts to show an almost predatory interest in her she begins to believe that something is really wrong. The family’s refusal to consider psychiatric treatment for the clearly unwell Catalina is another red flag , and Noemi becomes determined to get her the help she clearly needs. Little does Noemi realise that she is in real danger herself, even when her dreams begin to fill with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally is the younger son of the family, Francis, who seems keen to help but is still reluctant to share the secrets of the family’s past. As that secret is revealed in the second half of the book, the true scale of the danger she faces shakes Noemi to her core.
I cannot overstate how much I loved this book. Noemi is a wonderful character, full of sass and determination, and the perfect heroine for this story- and what a story it is, full of darkness, perfectly thought out and beautifully written. The author does a wonderful job of building the tension throughout the book, and created a wonderful cast of potential villains, meaning the reader never quite knows who to trust and is constantly kept on edge. The horror elements are beautifully blended into the story – at first I was worried that they would take me out of the story and make it less believable, but that never happened, instead I found myself being gripped even more.
One final note of appreciation for that beautiful and vivid cover, the rich and vibrant colours are both eye catching and a wonderful representation of the writing within.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Added 19th July 2020