Noemi Taboada receives a letter from her cousin, Catalina, asking for help. Acting swiftly, Noemi travels to High Place, an old house situated in the Mexican countryside where her cousin lives with her new husband, Virgil Doyle, and his family. It isn’t long after Noemi’s arrival that things begin to feel… off. Her cousin doesn’t seem to be receiving the best care and her in-laws are hovering over Noemi’s every move. And what’s wrong with the house? Can Noemi get to the bottom of her cousin’s mysterious illness or will she succumb to her environment before it’s too late?
I was looking to pad out my spooky season reading list when this one was recommended to me. Seeing as most of my October reads this year ranged from a few years to a few decades old, I thought it would be good to check out something new. Silvia Moreno- Garcia’s MEXICAN GOTHIC was as good a choice as any. It doesn’t hurt that it’s been a pretty buzzy book to say the least. Not only has it started to pop up on a few “Best of 2020” lists, it was just picked up by Hulu to be adapted into a TV show!
So, how was the book? I thought it was all right. The first half of the novel I found quite dull, if I’m being honest. Many people are championing Moreno-Garcia’s slow burn technique and patience. So, I wasn’t about to give up on it as I knew from a few of the reviews out there that the horror dial gets turned up to eleven once business starts to pick up. And boy, did it ever. Moreno-Garcia’s efforts in laying down some considerable ground work for the Doyle family history help to push this one into some pretty spooky psychological horror territory in the latter half of the story. It’s just it wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable journey getting there.
For fear of spoilers, I’ll stay away from why exactly the house at High Place is haunted, but I will say that the ways in which Moreno-Garcia made the mansion loom so sinister really worked for me. There’s something about houses that feel alive that really do it for me (see: House of Leaves), the way in which the structure completely surrounds the characters and can be used brilliantly as an entire other character itself when twisting and tangling reality like a set of old Christmas lights.
I know there isn’t much time left until Halloween, but MEXICAN GOTHIC is a worthy entry into your spooky season stack. Silvia Moreno-Garcia crafts a chilling look into the ties that bind us and why in the face of the otherworldly those closest to us can be the real monsters.