He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
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, smart, and has 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 was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
I was so delighted to get an ARC of this novel as it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I was even happier when I was asked to be part of the blog tour for it! It’s been a tough time for new releases due to Covid-19, so it’s always great when publishers, blog tours and reviewers work hand in hand to really promote and give a book a boost. I’m super happy to be part of this tour and I encourage you to read all the other reviewers thoughts as well and support this book and author any way you can.
Mexican Gothic is a delightfully dark, creepy and flawlessly paced novel which is so suspenseful, captivating and so skilful, I’m in awe. The novel follows Noemí, a beautiful and quick witted socialite who is tasked by her father to find out the truth behind a bizarre letter sent by her cousin Catalina. In the bid to win his approval and freedom to attend the National university, Noemí accepts the task gladly. However, when she gets to High Place and meets her cousins new family, strange things keep cropping up, an odd set of rules, a buzzing coming from the walls, sinister nightmares and pulsing wallpaper…
One of my favourite things about this novel is the foreboding and dark atmosphere which is so incredibly rich and well crafted. From the first chapter I was hooked and I enjoyed the level of detail immensely; from the descriptions of Noemí’s clothes, to the foreboding landscape of High Place, it’s grounds and the interior of the house. Garcia is so skilled in the way she is able to create such a strong ambience and in such a succinct way, which is so effective. I especially enjoyed the way the passage of time is depicted in the novel, everything at High Place feels like it has lost it’s splendour and been ravaged by time and calamities which enhances the morose atmosphere. As a whole the novel feels very cinematic and I could picture it being an absolutely stunning film.
As well as the atmosphere itself lending itself so well to the Gothic feel and genre, the characters are also so well suited to this story. I think Noemí is a great choice to be the protagonist, she is underestimated by everyone around her due to her youth, beauty and perceived ‘flightiness’ but this underestimation works to her advantage as she unravels the mysteries of High Place and the Doyle family. There’s this one really great passage after a conversation with her father, where Noemí resents the fact that a woman is only thought or allowed to be one thing in society. There is no understanding that multi faceted women exist and you can be interested in parties and fashion and still be intelligent and academically inclined. I thought there was some great examination of social attitudes towards women at the time and some great character work there.
We have Virgil, Catalina’s husband who is cloaked in mystery and seduction, who begins to have a keen and undue interest in Noemí. Virgil is literally like a serpent, and anytime he was on the page I was on edge and could only breathe a sigh of relief once he was gone. I was also majorly creeped out by the ageing patriarch of the Doyle clan, Howard, trust me you have to read the book to see why, just trust me on this one. On the flipside, we have cousin Francis, who is shyer and more bookish, he is also the only member of the family who treats Noemí with kindness and is sympathetic to her cause. I liked that we had these male characters all being such diametric opposites to each other despite being from the same family, it was so interesting and made some points about toxic masculinity and privilege.
As well as representing this toxic masculinity and privilege, Moreno-Garcia also manages to touch upon racial inequality and colourism within the novel. The Doyles are preoccupied with race and genetics, in fact there is a particularly uncomfortable and fraught conversation about eugenics and a dig against Noemí’s darker complexion. There’s also the fact that the Doyles refuse to learn or speak Spanish despite settling down in Mexico which reinforces their ignorance and lack of regard for Mexico and it’s people. This ties in to the larger narrative in a VERY powerful way which makes it all the more important that the author chose to include this thread.
I really don’t want to include spoilers in this review so I’ll refrain from going into details but I really liked the way the story progressed and how perfect the pacing was. For me, pacing is always a big issue and it was done SO well here. I liked how bit by bit the truth of what’s going on is revealed and while I predicted some elements of the story, there were others which I didn’t expect at all. I think readers will be thoroughly creeped out, grossed out and sufficiently terrified so take from that what you will. I’m a fan of horror / thrillers through and through and even I was on the edge of my seat, scared to see where it would go.
Overall, I can’t speak any more highly of Mexican Gothic and Silvia Morena-Garcia’s writing. I can say with confidence that this is already one of my favourite books of the year and I implore anyone who is a fan of horror and historical fiction to check it out. You will not be disappointed.
Until next time,