The type of horror that never fails to scare me out of my wits aren’t the ones with the high-end productions with numerous jumpscares, nor the splatter-fest that comes after violence and gore.
It’s the slow, creeping kind that gives me nightmares for days. The uncertainty of is-something-there-or-is-it-the-wind, the quiet chills that indicate that something watches, getting ready to take hold of your mind and subject you to the worst scare of your life.
Mexican Gothic is the latter.
This is the type of book that from the moment you start reading the first page, you can’t help but finish it in one seating. It’s engaging and draws you in slowly, leading you to darker depths that you can’t emerge from unscathed.
So, What’s the Book about?
An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed 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.
The book fairly starts out slow, but it’s a pacing that suited the overall atmosphere of the book. With Catalina’s ramblings and cryptic note sent to the Taboadas, it helped mount the suspense, not enough to bombard the reader upfront, but rather it gives off the subtle expression that something is definitely wrong.
“…he is trying to poison me. This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment. I have tried to hold on to my wits, to keep this foulness away but I cannot and I find myself losing time of track and thoughts.”
“…you must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me. I cannot save myself as much as I wish to, I am bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin and it’s there. In the walls.”
Noemi was a breath of fresh air for me. She’s one of the rarer characters I have come across that is confident, self-made, and challenges head-on to break conventional roles and stereotypes posed on women during her time. She was far more interested in the pursuit of knowledge not to impress a husband, but to experiment with what suits her fancy.
“But it isn’t like you should have to make up your mind about everything at twenty-two,” she thought
She knows what she wants and she strives to get it. Her father might describe her as “flighty, always changing your mind about everything and anything” and being “stubborn about all the wrong things” but to me she just comes off as a character who bides her time and cycles through different interests that might benefit her in the long run—such as pursuing post-graduate studies after attending university. I respected that about her. She isn’t the most likeable character but her dedication and motivation to rescue Catalina as they try to survive and escape made me root for her until the end.
Aside from her personality, I really liked how the author highlighted her fashion choices. As a big softie for dresses and anything related with clothes, I totally enjoyed going arts-and-craftsy with the Noemi Dress-Up Paper Doll (which you can also download here).
Moreover, the narrative keeps surprising me with a twists. Just when I’ve thought I’ve followed where the story is going to, BAM! It hits me with something else and takes me another way that I totally did not expect. It seriously creeped the hell out of me, and it made me mull over a lot of things (read: plagued me with nightmares) especially at 4 AM, in the morning.
All in all, I really liked this book. It definitely succeeded in evoking feelings of fear and unsettling emotions in me as a reader. This felt like a long, drawn-out nightmare, transporting me to another plane of existence, and when I finally turned to the last page, I came out of it never the same. (And oh, I’ll never look at mushrooms the same way again.)
(Content warnings: body horror, violence, sexual assault, cannibalism, racism, incest, graphic depiction of violence)
Overall rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
(An advanced reading copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)