Wow, I inhaled this book – a gothic, fantasy, supernatural, horror romance with a feminist perspective. Not my usual genre! Mexican Gothic (Jo Fletcher Books Hachette 2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a mesmerising and haunting tale set in 1950’s Mexico.
A young socialite, Noemi, and her father receive a desperate letter from her newly-wed cousin, pleading with them to rescue her from the sinister forces of High Place, a crumbling mansion on the lands of an abandoned silver mine. Her letter is confused – she speaks of strange physical occurrences, weird ghostly-like apparitions, walls that speak, the dead that materialise, being poisoned by her husband. Noemi is concerned for her cousin’s mental health, and her father – keen to avoid a family scandal – sends her on a mission to visit her cousin, Catalina, and determine the truth for herself.
When she arrives, it is immediately apparent that all is not as it seems, but is it merely a strictly disciplined household with Catalina a disturbed new family member? As the days go on, and Noemi falls under the spell of the house, she begins to suspect something much more sinister. Dreams of blood and doom begin to haunt her nights, and Catalina’s new family seem disinclined to help her or even to allow her much contact with her cousin. Once a wealthy and influential family, the inhabitants of High House are now insular and secretive. By the time Noemi uncovers the truth, will it be too late to save not only Catalina, but also herself?
Noemi is a wonderful character – a retro, feminist, bad-ass, forthright and outspoken young woman who is more comfortable with bright red lipstick, cocktail dresses and high society parties than with the gloom of High Place. She is determined to solve the mystery, ridiculous as it all seems, and assumes the role of amateur sleuth with feisty and grim grit. She doesn’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural – she is sure there must be a rational explanation for what is happening. She refuses to be afraid of Catalina’s alluring and creepily charming husband or his demanding and autocratic father, the patriarch of the family. Her only ally is Catalina’s brother-in-law, Francis, who is shy and gentle, but who is himself caught up in the clutches of whatever evil invades this place. Mausoleums, cemeteries, secret tunnels, rooms full of faded luxurious tapestries and mould, this house and its surrounds are characters as much as the people.
Rich, sensual, evocative, haunting, imaginative, suspenseful, spell-binding tale of decay, sacrifice, greed, rebirth. Like Rebecca on steroids.