Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – REVIEW
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 received a complimentary copy of this book from Quercus.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“The walls speak to me. They tell me secrets … There are ghosts. They’re real. You’ll see them eventually.”
The Beautiful Ones has been my joint-favourite read of the year so far so I was eager to read an early copy of the author’s latest book, Mexican Gothic. I’m a big fan of gothic horror and was engrossed in this fantasy-horror tale from the very first page thanks to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s evocative writing style. Noemí was a complex, confident and clever main character; a white knight intent on rescuing her cousin Catalina after she accuses her new husband of attempted poisoning.
Noemí is the typical outsider whose very presence throws the status quo into stark relief and shines a light upon every dark abnormality. Set in 1950, the author explores gender politics via both Noemí and Catalina. Their suspicions are frequently dismissed as hysteria by surrounding male characters, and the threat of being sent to as asylum is raised more than once.
“Just because there are no ghosts it doesn’t mean you can’t be haunted. Nor that you shouldn’t fear the haunting.”
Like any classic gothic horror, the setting becomes an additional character, one hiding decades of death. The author weaves a hauntingly atmospheric tale, slowly revealing the insidious corruption of High Place and the Doyle family using imagery of sickness and rot. The claustrophobic setting increases the building horror, and the nightmares, hallucinations and sleepwalking Noemí experience suggest a descent into madness reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper.
The Doyle family of High Place are mostly unlikeable and invite the reader’s suspicion – the patriarch of the Doyle family, Howard, is introduced via racist remarks espousing eugenics; Virgil, Catalina’s husband, is domineering and cold; Florence, Virgil’s cousin, is strict and unfeeling. There’s also an element of dangerous romance harking back to brooding characters such as Heathcliff and Rochester, where attraction wars with repulsion.
“Nothing in this place was what it seemed. There were secrets upon secrets.”
The author drops plenty of clues as to the cause of the madness but I was still surprised by the full explanation, which revealed an even darker truth. As hidden secrets come to light, the action becomes faster-paced as Noemí races to escape an encroaching horror that threatens to devour her whole. Mexican Gothic is an unforgettable and evocative tale of power, gender, and madness, that engages the reader from the first chapter and refuses to let them go.