Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Blurb: 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.
Gothic horror is way outside my usual reads, but I kept seeing this book everywhere, so I decided to give it a shot. And I’m super glad I did.
Set against the backdrop of 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic is an atmospheric, slow-burn gothic horror that manages to thread elements of racism, eugenics, and colonialist history into a highly engaging mystery plot with an array of eerie twists and turns. The plot is perfectly paced for this genre, and while it moves slower than the average plots of my preferred genres, I was never bored with the book because the character interactions and dialogues were always incredibly interesting.
All the characters in the book are unique and well developed, especially the protagonist, Noemí, who outwardly paints herself as a perfect socialite while in actuality being a headstrong and courageous young woman cleverly working her way through the loopholes of the social restrictions imposed on women during the 1950s. The antagonists too have a great deal of character depth, due in large part to their seemingly casual interactions with Noemí leading up to the climax of the story.
The only issue I have with the book is quite minor: I thought the horror-fantasy elements were a tad difficult to fully grasp. Some of the explanations came off a bit vague to me, and I’m not entirely sure I understood how exactly everything logically worked. But that didn’t bother too awful much since the focus of the story was more the creeping horror and intense drama rather than the mechanics behind the fantasy world-building.
So, overall, this book was a very enjoyable read for me. Eerie without resorting to cheap jump scares. Dramatic without resorting to melodrama. And full of excellently drawn characters, with a smart and capable protagonist.
If you’re looking for something a little different to read this summer, I highly recommend Mexican Gothic.