Mexican Gothic (Book Review)
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Gothic Mystery, 2020
4 / 5
This novel envelops you in its mystery from the first page and keeps you enthralled until the very end.
After receiving a letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from an unspecified danger, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. The house is foreboding, her cousin’s husband cold, and the other members of the household strange. It isn’t long before Noemí begins experiencing strange dreams and odd occurrences …
The novel balances the tropes of the genres while also giving it new life. We have the secluded mansion, the sickly wife, the heroine, the ghostly-apparitions, the undercurrent of sex, and the stoic handsome man of the house. Gothic mysteries rely on tropes, or they’re just ghost stories, so I really liked how this one kept to the genre. Unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly interested in the mystery’s resolution. While Gothic mysteries often have an element of the supernatural, this one went a bit too far for me - I prefer a psychological twist or a less directly supernatural rationale for the events. I liked the characters. Noemí is a spoiled little rich girl, but she isn’t annoying. She is tough as nails, resilient, and smart. Her choices, for the most part, make sense. She doesn’t change much over the course of the novel, but she is likeable. I did care about her fate and wanted her to succeed.
The other characters are intriguing, but I wish the novel had been longer so we had more time with them. We only get a few instances with some of them and the sexual tension with another is cute but fell a bit flat for me. The novel didn’t feel rushed, but it also could have been drawn out a bit longer. I found the last third moved far too quickly, as I much preferred the slow tone of the first. I also didn’t find the novel particularly scary. Then again, Gothic novels are more about tone than jump scares, and it definitely kept up a malevolence throughout.
When it came to the writing, I found it overly flowery and the metaphors distracting at times. Certain ones were great, but others like “neglect had flourished” felt like they were trying too hard to retain eh style of classic Gothic.
Overall, Mexican Gothic is definitely worth the read for Gothic mystery fans.