About the Book:
The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her. Noemí’s chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.
Tough and smart, she possesses 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 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, 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 leave this enigmatic house behind.
“There’s people in the walls,” Catalina said. “There’s people and there’s voices. I see them sometimes, the people in the walls. They’re dead.”
Gothic historical fiction is a go to for me, particularly if it features a spooky house with a presence all of its own. The injection of horror into the mix can usually be hit or miss though, depending on the type of horror. I’m really not into slasher style horror, but if it leans more to the supernatural side of things, then I’m more inclined to enjoy it. On the hit or miss scale, this novel was a firm hit. It really did have all the right elements for this genre and in all the right concentrations too. Nothing was overdone: the atmosphere, the element of dread, the escalation of fear – all balanced with perfection.
“There’s heavy places. Places where the air itself is heavy because an evil weighs it down. Sometimes it’s a death, could be it’s something else, but the bad air, it’ll get into your body and it’ll nestle there and weigh you down.”
This novel is not all just chills and thrills though. There was a very credible storyline relating to female agency within its historical era. Set at the beginning of the 1950s, in Mexico, Catalina and Noemí are both at the mercy of the men in their lives and their experience, and that of the women who haunt this house, highlights the limitations on being not only a woman, but a woman with money, particularly money that your father holds the purse strings of or that your husband has intentions for. There is a special kind of danger reserved for a powerless woman who comes with a big dowry. The exploration of this vulnerability seems to work best in gothic fiction, particularly, The Woman in White, comes to mind, and this novel taps into that same vein, just with a shot of horror to amplify the effect.
“And the first woman, she thought a horror had befallen him, that an evil possessed him, but the other one, she knew this had always been him, under the skin. I feared evil long ago. I feared him.”
This is kind of a story about eugenics gone mad, and while the way it all plays out is definitely supernatural, and therefore, only credible with the use of imagination, I couldn’t help but feel a certain pull of dread with this focus. History is of course littered with examples of where eugenics have directed certain actions, and while the events of this novel could never actually unfold within the context they are imagined, the premise upon which it is built is only all too real. Selective breeding to preserve bloodlines; it makes you shudder to even read that statement, doesn’t it?
“This house had been built atop bones. And no one had noticed such an atrocity, rows and rows of people streaming into the house, into the mine, and never leaving. Never to be mourned, never to be found. The serpent does not devour its tail, it devours everything around it, voracious, its appetite never quenched.”
I’m really very keen to read more from this author. She has great vision and imagination and her ability to evoke atmosphere is second to none. The way she created the house in this novel was extraordinary, it had a life of its own, the presence of a character in itself. The supernatural aspect to this story was also wholly unique, and again, this is testimony to the author’s imagination. The melding of this supernatural side of the story to the historical setting and those pertinent and thought provoking themes I mentioned above, all point to an author of note, one whose work I’d certainly like to become more acquainted with.
Thanks is extended to Quercus (via NetGalley) for providing me with a copy of Mexican Gothic for review and for inviting me onto the blog tour. To read more reviews on this book, follow the blog tour below.
About the Author:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Published by Jo Fletcher Books
Released 23rd June 2020