Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

cover of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey (June 2020)

320 pages; $16.20 hardcover; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

Mexican Gothic has been hyped to the extreme for at least a year, so my expectations going in were high. And even though they were high, they were never unrealistic as I already knew Moreno-Garcia to be a talented writer. But when this book took an unexpected and interesting turn, combined with a surprising amount of gore, I knew I had found a winner.

Mexican Gothic is gothic horror combined with classic fiction at its finest. It’s deliciously dark, atmospheric, and creepy. The visceral imagery, ominous tone, and intriguing premise sent chills down the back of my neck. As I reached the second half of the book, the story went in an unusual direction and let me just say this: a controversial ending always gives me the warm fuzzies.

Living in 1950’s Mexico City, Noemí Taboada is not your typical heroine. She is a 22-year-old socialite with an undergraduate degree in anthropology. Her father, with whom she lives, doesn’t care much about her aspirations and academic achievement because, like most men of that time, he only cares if she marries well. But Noemí is strong, carefree, and intelligent; I fell in love with her instantly. When her father receives an alarming letter from her cousin Catalina, he asks Noemí to go to her and find out what is wrong.

Catalina married an Englishman, Virgil Doyle, and was whisked away to a moldering manor know as High Place. The descriptions in the letter are disturbing—the things Catalina wrote make her sound quite mad, as if she’s sick or being mistreated by the Doyle family. Noemí leaves the highlife and takes the trip to High Place to see her cousin. However, when Noemí arrives, something is off. There is a dark and looming heaviness as Catalina seems catatonic at best and is being kept away from her. The Doyle family is peculiarly eccentric and it gets even more eerie when she meets the family’s patriarch, Howard Doyle. The circumstances around this manor are mysterious, and that’s just the beginning.

This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment. I have tried to hold onto my wits to keep this foulness away, but I cannot. And I find myself losing track of time and thoughts. Please, please. They are cruel and unkind, and they will not let me go. I bar my door, but still they come. They whisper at night, and I am so afraid of these restless dead, these ghosts, fleshless things.

Moreno-Garcia does a stellar job building the tension slowly, page by page, until the fantastical, exhilarating ending. The use of Lovecraftian elements is genius and are brilliantly incorporated. The vivid and descriptive language made me swoon, and the grotesque, surrealistic imagery filled my imagination with pure joy. I am a sucker for well-written dream sequences and I was in awe here. Mexican Gothic stands entirely on its own but is reminiscent of Rebecca, with less atmosphere and more monstrosities. The lush, morbid descriptions and the incongruous characters made it impossible for me to put this book down.

Mexican Gothic isn’t for every reader by any means. While the gorgeous cover hints at more of a Jane Eyre or Rebecca feel, the “horror buzz” will attract the opposite type of reader. The truth is, it’s somewhere in between. I recommend this novel to readers looking for classic gothic fiction with a twist of something new. In the end, it turns into a bloody masterpiece.

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