Genre: Gothic Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 3 stars Series: standalone
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 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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
MEXICAN GOTHIC is a book that was a phenomenon, it seemed, everyone talking about it. It’s certainly given the author a massive boost and brought a bunch of her backlist titles back into print.
It drips atmosphere – the creepy old house in the mist, isolated from the nearest town. The old-fashioned furniture, the quiet staff. All the family’s rules and their general coldness. The knowledge that there must be terrible secrets hidden away.
I mostly associate gothic with the Victorians, so the antiquated house really helped set the mood for me. Plus, it helped to draw a line between the “normal” world of the ’50s and the twisted one of the house. Plus it’s hard for something to be unnerving if it’s brightly lit so there are no shadows to create into monsters (I think you can do sterile horror, but it’s probably harder.) Candles and bad electrics are a bit of a staple of the genre!
I knew that the book would be atmospheric going in – that is half the point of gothic fiction, and certainly a lot of the reason I read them – but this was another level. The pacing helps, slowly unspooling events (and the very creepy husband), and it has the effect of making this very slim tome feel about the length of an “average” book.
It’s a slow build tension, a niggling unease that something – everything – is terribly, terribly wrong with the house and the family. You want Noemí to run before it’s too late, because the longer she stays, the harder it will be for her to escape. But also you want to find out the truth behind the goings on.
I did find the final third (maybe even 40%) a little hard to follow. The line between her dreams and reality, between past and present, blurred and I found it tricky to work out what was going on. Where did the hallucinations end and the actual world begin?
Read my reviews of other books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: