No good deed goes unpunished. Fortunately, most people’s good deeds don’t involve the harrowing, strange things that Noemí’s does. In Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Noemí Taboada is asked to leave her glamorous life of parties and clothes and university studies to check in on her cousin, Catalina. Catalina moved away to a remote estate in Hidalgo after her marriage and now, months later, she sends a strange letter back home that has everyone worried for her sanity.
Mexican Gothic, after a brief glimpse of the wealthy high life of Mexico City, quickly becomes a pressure cooker once Noemí arrives at High Place to see Catalina and her new husband, Virgil Doyle. High Place is the kind of manor that immediately makes the hair on one’s neck rise up and refuse to lay back down. The near-silent servants are just a small part of what’s wrong about the place. The building is musty and damp; its glory days are clearly behind it. Worst of all are the Doyles. These immigrant English now living in the heart of Mexico’s silver country are awful. They’re imperious, racist, and very, very creepy. Noemí is baffled as to why Catalina would ever want to stay at High Place. When she finally sees her cousin, Noemí wants to take her away immediately. Things are not right at High Place.
Moreno-Garcia brilliantly creates a claustrophobic atmosphere at High Place while slowly filling in details about the Doyle family and its history with the silver miners that alarm Noemí even more. Mexican Gothic is the kind of book that I inhaled as quickly as I could. I had to know what happened to Noemí and Catalina and Noemí’s reluctant ally, Francis Doyle. Noemí is a fantastic character. I loved that she is portrayed as determined, intelligent, and very fond of beautiful clothes. And not only did the characters capture me, but I relished Moreno-Garcia’s twist on the creepy-house-and-family-Gothic story. I felt shades of Rebecca and Dracula here, but this book is all Moreno-Garcia. I love originality.