Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Rating: 5/5 stars
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 don’t love horror, especially lately when I’ve been such a ball of anxiety because of the pandemic. I have read and liked some of the classic Gothic novels, but I often find them a bit too melodramatic. So really, I’m not the target audience for this book, but I loved Gods of Jade and Shadow by the same author and was interested to see her take on the Gothic set in Mexico. Plus, who can resist that gorgeous cover?
All of that said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can’t recommend it enough. For those of you who are very squeamish like me, I would say this book is deliciously creepy and not nearly as frightening as Bird Box or The Shining. There are some disturbing scenes, of course, but nothing that gave me visceral nightmares (to be fair, I also read this book mostly during the day in case it did get scary haha). I just could not put this book down for the last 100 pages, and even when things got really intense and stressful, Noemí would make some kind of arch comment that would make me laugh.
Noemí Taboada was such an easy character to root for. She is rich and vain, yes, but she owns it and doesn’t take shit from anyone. I like how headstrong and unapologetically intelligent she is, this is particularly unusual for Gothic novels where women are usually pretty passive. Mexican Gothic as a whole is a smart adaptation of Gothic tropes in terms of theme and language. I really loved the added critique of colonialism and racism on top of the usual “hysterical” woman in a creepy house who doesn’t know what is real and what isn’t. The writing style was especially captivating, it would describe horrific and disturbing images in the most lush way, and you’d find yourself equally drawn in and repulsed.
I have a lot of other thoughts about this book but that would be spoiler territory so I’ll reign it in. I will list some spoilery trigger warnings in white text for those who would like to know before reading though:
Incest, sexual assault, cannibalism
Overall, even if you are only slightly interested in this book, I highly recommend thatyou give it a shot. Not only is this an excellent story, but supporting BIPOC authors in genre fiction really helps to pave the way for other BIPOC authors’ stories to get picked up!