She felt ambushed; she thought they had planned to scold her together. She wondered if they did this with Catalina. She would go into the dining room and offer a suggestion—about the food, the décor, the routine—and they would politely, delicately silence her.– Mexican Gothic
Summary and Thoughts
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.
Mexican Gothic is a book that starts out slow . . . stays a bit slow . . . and then hits you over the head with a sledgehammer, its themes and action potent within the last 30% of the book. I had previously read Moreno-Garcia’s novel Gods of Jade and Shadow and enjoyed it immensely, despite my criticisms on its sometimes over-indulgent (though beautifully written) descriptions. That same criticism appears in this book as well, however, because the novel takes place almost entirely within the gothic mansion of High Place as oppose to the constant traveling and encounters in Gods of Jade and Shadow, there really is less to focus on or hope for as the book progresses. I also, regrettably, did not feel super creeped out within the first 2/3 of the book, unlike many other reviewers I follow, so I only felt horrified towards the end. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any important information within the first two thirds of the book, Moreno-Garcia weaves an immaculate view on the evils of eugenics, colonization, and misogyny through her characters and their histories without being too blunt, and this effortless inclusion was the highlight of the book.
The characters’ personalities were fine . . . I liked Noemí well enough, though I found her romance unnecessary and would have preferred a strong friendship instead. The other characters moreso served a thematic duty rather than one that engages the reader in an emotional connection. In the end, I can’t rate this book more than a 3.5, for while the ending was magnificent in its reveal (even if a bit over the top in believability), it was only then that I felt a sense of immediacy in reading. For others, I’d recommend reading Moreno-Garcia’s first book before this, and then decide if you like her style of writing enough to pick this up as well.
For Those Who Enjoyed
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
- The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
- Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
- Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado