Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silva Moreno-Garcia
Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silva Moreno-Garcia
Released: June 30, 2020 (Hardcover)
Description: An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Toboada 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’s 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 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.
Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click on the “Read More”, it is under the assumption that you either don’t care about spoilers or you’ve already read the book.
The thing about psychological horror and “gore” horror is that when you get into it, it doesn’t really feel like a novel. Maybe at first, this feels rather slow to start off just because Noemí isn’t a typical detective character – she’s not a writer, reporter, but instead, she’s a simple socialite who changes majors like she changes dresses. However, unlike other socialites who frequently act dump until they’re suddenly not, you can see from the very beginning that Noemí is very intelligent in her way. And it’s actually really nice to read a character like that. Not to say that other socialites are supposed to be dumb, it’s just that, a character like this tend to not think ahead of what’s in front of them and what they ultimately want for themselves.
For Noemí, she’s a really good lead this way. She’s interesting where while you may not be able to relate to her, the desire to be herself in a society that expects something certain of her no matter when the era will always be a universal feeling. It is interesting that this took place in the 1950s but you will start to see why the more you read.
One thing that will always frustrate me as a reader is a character who knows something is wrong and won’t do anything about it. Instead, they just wander around and happen to be there when the exposition shoe drops, and then they get rescued by someone else within the plot or the person they’re supposed to rescue in the first place. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with this novel. Noemí is extremely capable and did her best to get her and her cousin out of the mansion as much as she could
I think what I liked the most was the fact that Noemí had a mouth to her. She kept making mistakes and she definitely wasn’t willing to stop making mistakes if it meant she’d save her cousin from her creepy husband. She rebelled in every which way she could up until the end and that’s what I really enjoyed about the novel itself. Even though I mentioned that Noemí isn’t a sleuth by trade, but for the simple fact she actively kept trying to help Catalina even when things were hopeless – even when she really was about to leave High Place to come back – that’s what I really liked about her character and why I kept rooting for her and her cousin.
The Doyles make fantastic villains and while some people might find it a bit unrealistic in their beliefs and comments about a “superior” race, it all makes sense once you find out the meaning of the Ouroborous meaning and why mushrooms kept popping up all over there. The gloom is such an excellent way to explain the ghosts, the behavior, and the obsession with living and why Noemí kept seeing the ghost of someone who actively tried to escape its tight grip. I wish we could’ve gotten to know Florence a bit more and see the real effect the servants were going through.
There were so many aspects to this family alone that could easily terrify a reader and cause them to drop the book (because that incest reveal was rough and jaw-dropping on its own), but the cannibalizing the babies, the transfers of bodies and removing the host’s souls… only for the patriarch to begin anew. The abuse the women have had to go through just for Howard despite the fact they wanted no part of it… I think the one thing that truly horrified me was using Agnes as the gloom itself. So, not only was the poor woman buried alive, but she had been screaming for death and release – possibly using Ruth as a host (whether she wants to realize it or not) to end it all – but couldn’t. For me, it was great horror and drama but I can certainly understand why someone wouldn’t want to read that sort of content.
This novel certainly isn’t for everyone, especially with each reveals as the story goes along, but all I can say is that it’s good that it wasn’t Noemí that delivered the final blow to Howard – it was the intended victim herself, Catalina. She’s had enough and for all intents and purposes, I thought she should’ve been the one to finish off that “husband” of hers.
Although, I’m actually not sure where I stand about Noemí’s sudden “interest” in Virgil and the dreams she had and what transpired between them. I feel those scenes were pretty unnecessary and I wished there was more subtly, or maybe a better build-up to Noemí’s attention to how attractive he is (or becoming) to her. Not that it justifies what happened to her, but rather understand more how the gloom affects her. Or, you know, take those scenes out and just replace it with something else, whatever works.
I think though it was wise to include someone like Francis in the family – after all, his father is one of the few outsiders that lived long enough to make a baby; only to be thrown out to the gloom to feed upon. However, if I have to nitpick, I do feel that the relationship between Noemí and Francis was good but then Noemí suddenly seems to fall in love with him. Well, that’s wrong to say – it’s more to say that I got the sense she was falling for him, especially near the end, but it was almost written as though they’re already in the relationship – unless I wildly misunderstood the final scene.
Honestly, there’s just so much I loved about this book, despite those nitpicks! I thought the pacing was fine, considering this must’ve taken weeks for Noemí to get Catalina out of High Place, and with her physical and mental state, I can understand why Noemí hesitated to just drag her home (not considering Florence’s interruptions).
Other than the aforementioned issues that could bother a reader, if you’re able to cope with something like that, definitely consider picking this up and giving this a read! There’s a high chance I may re-read this in October when the real gloom season starts.
Posted on August 8, 2020, in ★★★★★ – 5 Stars, Book Reviews, Book Series, Oneshots and tagged book review, halloween, mexican goth, reading, review, silva moreno-garcia, spoilers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.