“Everything is built upon something else. Whether it is a mighty fortress, a simple home, or the very lives of the people around us, there’s a foundation beneath everything. But don’t let that strong, smooth layer fool you. There’s darkness down there, if you know where to look.”Lore podcast #117: Bones
Imagine a house. Imagine a man in that house, so horrible in his ambition that he is willing to trap his own family inside the house which is in itself a conduit to his dark desires.
Enter Noemí Taboada, a young socialite in 1950s Mexico who, after receiving a letter from her recently married cousin that her new husband isn’t at all what he seems, has to face the horrors of High Place, the ancestral home of the elusive and once-powerful Doyle family. The smell of decay follows her everywhere and despite her better judgement, Noemí is entranced by it. She is drawn further and further inside the quicksand that is the Doyle estate, her rescue mission effectively dismissed. The youngest son, Francis, proves to be an ally, but only when it seems to be too late.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia gives eldritch horror a vintage spin and the result is a slowly rotting cluster of mushrooms. It messes with your head and the characters’ heads, but each what-the-fuckery has a natural and scientific explanation. Almost. Mostly, it’s really gross. This book is not for the faint of heart.
While I enjoyed Noemí, I’m not sure why she thought she could save her cousin from a man who’s poisoning her mind and body by wearing new clothes and having oblique horror dreams. Which she does for a considerable percentage of the book. But for all that while it’s like her very existence, her headstrong and flamboyant personality itself, is an affront to the Doyle curse. She barks out a merry laugh and they scatter like shocked and offended mice. Except Francis, who’s really pale and really sickly and really, just wants to talk about mushrooms. I love him. In a setting where Noemí is supposed to be the Gothic heroine running away from the old, dark, crumbling mansion with a candelabra in her hand and Francis should be the knight who saves her, that’s not the case with these two at all.
While we’re on the topic of characters, I would also like to point out that Virgil’s hot villain prospects are entirely wasted. I’m not exactly disappointed with how it plays out, but I mean, he’s hot, he’s evil, he has the potential to be even more horrible than his father and then the ending happens. I don’t know, maybe by that point I wanted to spend a bit more time inside the story.
Writing this review, I’m realizing how much fun I actually had with this book. What does that say about me? Anyway. I’m glad this was my introduction to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work, I think she’s a really versatile author who might hopefully be one of my new favorites. If you love horror and go into Mexican Gothic bearing the grossness in mind, it may be your cup of tea as well.
Many thanks to Quercus Books/Jo Fletcher Books for an eARC via NetGalley and the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour.