Genre: Fiction Horror
Published: June 30, 2020
My Rating: 3.5/5
An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed 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
There’s atmosphere galore in this one!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a perfect read to compliment the spooky, derelict, grey mood of October. The story was unique and blended the mystical and paranormal with sci-fi in unexpected and imaginative ways that felt novel enough to keep you turning pages.
With a perpetually cringe-worthy onslaught of unsettling and creepy passages you’re sure to feel uncomfortable on more than one occasion and Garcia does a great job at reminding you that this is as much a mystery as it is a horror. Every chapter takes you deeper into the cryptic history of High Place and then slowly reveals and untangles its mysteries in a flawlessly paced execution. The characters are intriguing and Garcia balances that quiet awe and fascination of each of them with the subtly of eeriness that wraps the reader in suspicion. The brilliant atmosphere is in itself a separate entity that, in my opinion, steals the show.
Noemi, our protagonist, is flippant, beautiful and vain. But she’s also a feminist far ahead of her time – a woman who’s intelligence is only eclipsed by her intense loyalty to her family and a fierce protectiveness. Her development is one of the strong elements to Mexican Gothic and I was happy to see a capable female lead being portrayed.
Overall, the plot was interesting and the gothic premise was exactly what I had been looking for when I picked this one up. It’s well written but not extraordinary. The characters are textbook but still unique enough to not feel overdone and the atmosphere really did win me over.
I wanted more Mexico. I wanted the culture, the history and the flare. As deliciously written as this book was (I could feel the damp in my lungs while wandering the hallways of High Place with Noemi), I was a bit disappointed by the English influence. It seemed like a cop-out to settle such an English centrepiece in a land already so rich in its own potential. The dreariness of the mysterious mansion at the centre of everything definitely stands in stark contrast to the brightness of Mexico and the life Noemi comes from, but once she’s removed from the backdrop of Mexico City there’s little blending of those worlds. If more Mexican charm had spilled over into the story, I imagine the mood would have been even more heightened and memorable.
In my opinion, this was a bit of a missed opportunity to feature Mexican lore and culture, but the result was still an interesting and very readable piece of fiction by Garcia.
Unsettling and well-paced, Mexican Gothic is a beautifully descriptive and subtly potent read that seeds away in your memory for weeks after shutting the book – a feat I really hadn’t expected.