Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
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.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia beat Stephen King in the Goodreads Choice Awards.
You heard me right. And while the GR Choice Awards can be something of a useless popularity contest, it speaks volumes that Mexican Gothic triumphed over work by one of the world’s most famous horror writers. That’s no small feat, not by any means. More than that, it’s incredible the sheer margin by which Mexican Gothic won. Over 85,000 votes stood behind this book, in contrast to 40-odd thousand for King’s work.
If that’s not enough to sell you on the sheer quality of this book, though, what if I told you Mexican Gothic feels like an old school haunted manor bursting at the seams with sharp insights on race and gender? And if that still doesn’t do it, have you considered that this book has weird mushrooms? Like, super weird mushrooms.
Normally, I’m not even a big fan of horror.
Truth be told, I’m a certified chicken. I read Mexican Gothic in the middle of the day so that I wasn’t trying to get through it in the dark, when everything is obviously so much more unnerving. And even then? This book is still delightfully creepy. Steeped in a foggy, country-side atmosphere, it tries to invite modern convenience in, only for the manor called High Place to shut it out, turning its nose up at things like electricity and hot baths. From the very start, you easily get a sense of sharp contrast between young socialite Noemí Taboada and the old Doyle establishment at High Place.
If there’s anything to get me to read horror in spite of my aversion to it, it’s atmosphere. That’s why I love Rory Power’s books even if they creep me out; the atmosphere almost feels like its own character, and allows for total immersion while reading. And this is well and truly where Mexican Gothic excels.
Mexican Gothic also shines in its plot, of course.
Blending that atmosphere with a plot that escalates at a steady but unsettling clip, Mexican Gothic keeps the pages turning one after another. Even when things took a turn for the creepier, I couldn’t put it down, I was so engrossed in the story and the consequences of Noemí’s decisions, not to mention her conflicts with the creepy, racist Doyle family. Every event winds itself into the story’s heart until it refuses to let you go, and I loved the way it held my attention while also making me want to go set it down and maybe even hide from it for a little while!
I think the cost of this is an ending that was perhaps a little abrupt, but I also have to say that an abrupt ending is a small complaint in the face of such a strong, unsettling novel!
If you love horror, this one needs to be on your shelves.
Mexican Gothic is a star of the genre, and worth every minute spent turning the pages with bated breath. I can’t recommend it enough, though I do recommend browsing the content warnings below before you dive in. As with most horror books, there are quite a few. None of them struck me as particularly gratuitous, and they all contribute to the atmosphere and more unsettling plot elements, but it’s worth a browse all the same.
And while I have you here: you’re never going to look at mushrooms the same.
CW: smoking, loss of a loved one, racism, eugenics, violence (including gun violence), suicide, sexual assault, gore (including eye gore), body horror, incest, miscarriage, nudity, sex scene, cannibalism