Published by Del Rey on June 30, 2020
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
I don’t normally read much in the way of horror, but when I read the synopsis for Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel, Mexican Gothic, and saw the comparisons to gothic classics Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I just couldn’t resist stepping out of my comfort zone and giving it a try. I’m so glad I did too because Mexican Gothic is one wild and seriously creepy ride!
Set in Mexico during the 1950’s, the story follows Noemi Taboada, a stylish debutante who spends much of her time either going to parties or studying anthropology. She’s trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life when her family receives a disturbing and cryptic letter from Noemi’s recently married cousin, Catalina. In her letter, Catalina rants and raves, makes it sound like she’s being held against her will, and begs for someone to come and save her from a mysterious doom. Noemi and her family hadn’t heard from Catalina much since she moved away with her new husband so her letter comes as a huge shock. Fearful for both her physical and mental well-being, Noemi sets out on the long journey to visit Catalina and assess the situation.
As soon as Noemi arrives at High Place, the remote mansion in the countryside where Catalina is living, she can tell that something is just off. The mansion is creepy, rundown, and there are signs of decay everywhere, and the family themselves doesn’t appear much better off. Howard Doyle, the patriarch of the household, is practically on his deathbed, and all rules of the house are set up so as not to disturb him, with the ultra-stern housekeeper Florence enforcing them. Catalina’s husband Virgil is equally creepy and has a predatory vibe about him that Noemi immediately dislikes, and she quickly begins to understand why Catalina could be distressed by her living arrangements. Speaking of Catalina, Noemi is rarely allowed to see or speak to her cousin, and is told that she is recovering from an illness. The few times Noemi does speak to her, she seems agitated and not at all like herself. The longer Noemi stays in the house, the more she starts to sense that something is very wrong and that it may be starting to affect her as well.
I really enjoyed the character of Noemi. She’s smart, resourceful, and quite brave. She went to that house wanting answers and she wasn’t leaving without them. She also refused to back down to anyone who got in her way, no matter how much they tried to intimidate or threaten her.
I don’t want to say anything else about the plot since the bulk of the book deals with Noemi trying to figure out what is going on in this house. I will say though that what Noemi finds blows her mind, and mine as well. Mexican Gothic is a dark, disturbing, utterly twisted and such a unique story that all of the big reveals kept me guessing. In addition to the uniqueness of the story itself, I also loved the gothic atmosphere of the setting, especially the rundown mansion with the creepy graveyard on the property. Everything about this story had me on the edge of my seat from the moment Noemi started poking around in the mansion. One of my favorite elements of the storytelling was that the author creates an environment where it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what is illusion or perhaps an imagination run wild. I mention this in part because I do want to give a trigger warning for some graphic scenes involving a real or imagined sexual assault.
Circling back to touch on those comparisons to Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I think both of those are apt and I would also toss in a little V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic as well. If you’re craving a dark and haunting read, Mexican Gothic is sure to satisfy your appetite.