Review: Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Del Rey (July 18, 2023)
336 pages; $19.99 hardcover; $25.94 paperback; $22.05 audiobook; $13.99 e-book

Reviewed by Haley Newlin

Silvia Moreno-Garcia makes her much-anticipated return to horror (after Mexican Gothic) with her latest release, Silver Nitrate. It wasn’t just the Twilight Zone and Psycho-reminiscent imagery on the cover that pushed me to read Silver Nitrate; it was also because of its emphasis on oldies horror in the same vein as Hammer films and the rare chance to learn about Nazism in Mexico.

A duo of childhood best friends — Montserrat, a sound editor who feels overlooked in a male-dominated field, and Tristan, a soap opera actor with a haunting loss on his heels — bond over cinema. For Montserrat, there isn’t a better genre than horror. She was always the brave one anyway. Despite her bad leg and cane, Tristan sees Montserrat as his protector, too.When Montserrat faces decreasing hours at work, and Tristan struggles to land new roles as an aging actor, they befriend Montserrat’s neighbor, Abel Urueta, a retired filmmaker with endless stories about the industry and one of his films, Beyond The Yellow Door — allegedly cursed similarly to The Exorcist.

Urutera explains the film contains traces of magic, in a sense, though incredibly dangerous, both highly flammable and highly sought after by nazi occultists.Sorcery requires self-sacrifice, Montserrat discovers in this slow-burn valentine to horror cinema. And she, perhaps more so than anyone else, hears the whispered temptations of the corrupt.As Moreno-Garcia says in Silver Nitrate, “You can’t buy magic for twenty pesos and expect it to work.”The toll of knowledge is a prominent theme throughout Moreno-Garcia’s work, including The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. It lends itself well to Montserrat’s character arc in Silver Nitrate. She is fighting evil within her mind, her city, her world, and demons attempting to rise again.

Tristan’s character was equally well-developed. Particularly in how he grieves and the ghosts that follow him.

I do think the structure of the book could’ve allowed for a lengthier face-off in the end. I would’ve liked to have seen more of “what the world looks like if evil wins” scenes. I believe this would’ve countered some of the slower chapters and beefed up the scare-factor horror readers expect.

With Nazi occultists (alive, dead, and undead) and a bisexual best friend-duo as the only saviors, Silver Nitrate stands out in Moreno-Garcia’s catalog. Its social relevance, authentically demonstrated throughout the book and as the magic strengthens, is anxiety-inducing and achieves all the brilliance of Mexican Gothic.
I’ll recommend it again and again.

Leave a Reply