Review: “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Release Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: Horror

Description

“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 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.”

My Review

When stylish socialite Noemí Taboada arrived at the rural mountain estate High Place, she didn’t expect it to look so gloomy and neglected. Cracked tiles, drafty windows, and mold on every conceivable surface. And her cousin Catalina acting like a tormented bride instead of the cheery young woman she was before her marriage. Noemí can’t seem to get on the right side of the stern lady of the house, Florence, Catalina’s unsettling husband Virgil, the silent and docile servants, or the overpowering and overbearing lord of the manor Howard. Only Virgil’s cousin Francis, a weak-willed, plain young man terrified of his own shadow, is willing to spend time with Noemí. 

Something is very wrong at High Place, but Noemí can’t figure out what is causing it. The more she investigates, the quicker the story shifts from creepy family to magical terrors. Haunted by frightening nightmares that feel all too real, Noemí decides to break her and Catalina out of High Place. But the house is not ready to let her go.

Mexican Gothic would be a good horror novel if it was just about a haunted house. But Silvia Moreno-Garcia turns it into something terrifyingly great by making colonialism the real terror. Colonialism – and its partners in crime white supremacy and the patriarchy – permeate every scene. Noemí constantly negotiates how to handle Howard, Virgil, and Florence’s racist and sexist attacks, trying to find ways to honor herself while not antagonising the people who could do her real harm. Moreno-Garcia also twists the gothic trope by pointing out that the tormented women who often haunt these stories were once just women; they were broken by abusive and careless men and then abandoned. The Doyles want to do to Noemí what they did to Catalina, and it takes every ounce of willpower she has to resist.

Another great horror book for 2020. If marginalized authors keep putting out books like this and The Only Good Indians, I might have to start reading horror fiction on the regular.

Buy it at Bookshop.org (affiliate link)

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