Book Review : Mexican Gothic

Book Review : Mexican GothicMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
on June 30, 2020
Genres: Gothic, Horror, Paranormal
Pages: 304
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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 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 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 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.

I snapped up Mexican Gothic for my Kindle during a sale and boy, am I glad I did. Mexican Gothic was the perfect, haunting read for right before Halloween. Author Silvia Moreno-Garcia creates the perfect eerie tale, with lush description,  a strong heroine, and careful, but thrilling pacing.


“There’re 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. That’s what’s wrong with the Doyles of High Place,” the woman said, concluding her tale.


Mexican Gothic introduces us to main character Noemi Taboada, a wealthy young socialite, whose life consists of no more worries than what dress she should wear to the piano recital or what beau she should take as her next date. That is, until her father receives a troubling letter from Noemí’s cousin, the recently married Catalina. In the letter, Catalina raves that her new husband, Virgil Doyle, is poisoning her and is clearly unwell, claiming that there are ghosts in the wall. Further correspondence has proven unfruitful, so at her father’s behest, Noemí, travels to the ancestral home of the Doyles, known as the High Place.


“He stared at her, his hands still gripping her own. “Noemí, just because there are no ghosts it doesn’t mean you can’t be haunted. Nor that you shouldn’t fear the haunting. You are too fearless. My father was the same way, and he paid dearly for it.”


From the very beginning it is clear that all is not well in High Place. Though in the countryside of Mexico, the Doyle family has come over from England, and insists on keeping the English ways. The patriarch of the house, Howard, has a troubling obsession with eugenics and makes disturbing comments to Noemí, about her dark skin and genes. Florence, his daughter and the person who runs High Place, requires adherence to strict and odd rules, such as no talking at the dinner table and no smoking. Worse, Florence barely ever lets Noemí see her cousin, Catalina, despite it being the sole reason for her visit. The only friendly person in the quiet house is Francis, Florence’s son, and the cousin of Catalina’s husband.


“It all sounds tragic, but I’m not sure I’d call it a curse.”
“You’d call it coincidence, wouldn’t you? Yes, I suppose you would. But the fact is everything they touch rots.”


Though Noemí suspects there is much more to Catalina’s illness than her supposed tuberculosis diagnosis, and tries to get to the bottom of the strange rituals of the house, she is barred at every door. Despite this, Noemí manages to put together clues of the Doyle’s family tumultuous and ghastly past. Mexican Gothic does a great job with the pacing, as Noemí only learns these facets of the Doyle family piecemeal, adding to the suspense and thrill of the mystery. However, it doesn’t take long at all for the reader to learn that there is much more at stake than simply Catalina’s health.


“You don’t scare me, you piece of shit monster, with your dreams and your tricks. This isn’t real, and you’ll never keep me here.”


I really adored Noemí’s wit and tenacity in the face of her own diminishing mental health and the direness of her situation. Despite the Doyle family constantly gaslighting her concerns, Noemí stops at nothing to figure out what exactly is going on in the High Place. I love how adeptly author Moreno-Garcia shows that there is much more to Noemí than pretty gowns and dreams of marriage, and how her cousin’s predicament only intensifies those steely parts of Noemí’s nature. I can only hope that I myself would behave as admirably as Noemí in such a frightening environment. I love seeing capable heroines handle things in such gruesome and horrific situations and Mexican Gothic does not disappoint.


“Noemí’s father said she cared too much about her looks and parties to take school seriously, as if a woman could not do two things at once.”


Likewise, Mexican Gothic artfully creates a gothic atmosphere reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Rebecca. With the author’s descriptions, I can hear the creaking floorboards of High Place as if they were under my own feet, and perfectly imagine the peeling wallpaper, the encroaching mold, and the gloom that shrouds everything at High Place. And despite the year being 1950, the High Place doesn’t bother much with electricity, requiring oil lamps and candles. This means this crumbling menace of a house is perpetually cloaked in darkness. It doesn’t hurt the haunted ambience that there is a complete cemetery on the grounds either. The atmosphere is so ominous and foreboding that I couldn’t put the book down and needed to know what happened next!


“The gravestones rose like broken teeth from the earth…”


If you are looking for a spooky read before Halloween or just love horror stories or gothic novels, Mexican Gothic is the book for you. It has wonderful descriptions, an overpowering atmosphere befitting of any haunted house tale, tight pacing, a strong heroine, and a pleasing mystery. I could easily see this novel, with its sumptuous descriptions and delightful creepiness getting a Netflix adaptation. After reading Mexican Gothic, I will definitely be checking out the author’s other works.

Book Review : Mexican Gothic - Blogging with Dragons

Posted October 26, 2020 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thrillers, and Horror


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