Happy Halloween. I am going to review the first ever horror book I’ve read in quite some time. This book is a recommendation from bookbuzzed Instagram account. I didn’t know it was horror though. I thought it was mystery. I usually don’t read horror books as, I never felt they were scary enough. I read Dracula in school and though it was a good read, I never ventured into the horror genre. (Speaking of Dracula, the BBC series of the same name with Steven Moffat’s writing is worth a watch) I don’t believe in ghosts and jumpscares don’t seem plausible in a book, so I usually neglect this genre. But when I read this description of Mexican Gothic, I didn’t think it was a typical horror book. The premise was new and captivating.
The book starts with Noemí being forced to visit her cousin who isn’t feeling well. She travels to check up on her. The ancestral home where her cousin’s husband and in-laws live is described hauntingly. The characters seem to have a different agenda of their own. Noemí’s sister’s health rapidly falls. Is her sister really ill or is something in the house affecting her? Why do they object so much to professional medical help and instead rely on the family Doctor? Why does the house have an eerie feel to it? Why does Noemí have bad dreams that make zero sense? So many questions. Each chapter is succinct and brings in more questions initially, drawing in the reader and forcing them to get to the end to answer these multitude of questions.
We see the characters through Noemí’s eyes and learn as she does. The concept once revealed seems a tad out-landish, but in the name of fiction, we can forgive it. The suspense that leads to such a secret is intriguing enough to more than justify such a answer. I haven’t read horror before so I don’t know whether all such horror stories are rooted in weird rituals, but honestly a genre change was refreshing to me. I usually read thrillers and murders, based on facts. Kathy Reichs’ Bones book series is based on Forensic evidence completely. Agatha Christie’s books are based on human psychology. Pretty much all the books I’ve read follow a trail of logic. So, as a palate clenser, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, is rejuvenating.
I remember looking at this fan art, that the author retweeted, and thinking, “This is exactly as I imagined it!” . The colour of the walls, the lamp, the portrait; everything. Only when an author describes so exactly, do so many readers conjure up the same image. Yet it never felt like the author was needlessly explaining the environment. That is the true success of a book. Every sentence adds to the story without making it too descriptive. Some authors tend to explain very remote detail. After a point, it’s just filler; a way to increase the page count without adding to the story.
This is also the first book I’ve ever read by a Mexican author. I didn’t know what to expect. But other than the new names and their pronounciations, I had nothing to get used to. It reads exactly like any novel would. Being so impressed I went back, and read her older book, “The Untamed Shore”. It’s a coming-of-age book about a teenager and how she is caught up with three adults and their schemes. While Mexican Gothic, showed how the rich lived, The Untamed Shore, shows how the working class of Mexico lived. Set in a village where they hunt sharks, the scenic descriptions and the folk stories from her grandmother add a distinct local flavour. Mexican Gothic is more fast paced than The Untamed Shore. Probably because of its genre. But other than that, both books are worth reading. And I will never forget reading my first Horror novel. It wasn’t as scary as I expected but it was scary enough to keep me hooked. Honestly, if I were more afraid, I would not have finished it.
Mexican Gothic: 8.5/10
The Untamed Shore: 7/10