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BOOK REVIEW: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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I bought this book because friends said it was great and because I write Gothic fiction and like to read it, too. When I began reading, I found it hard to get into – the pace a bit slow. However, when I got to around one-third of the way through, it started to pick up and I began to really enjoy it.

It’s the story of Noemi Taboada, a socialite, living the high life in Mexico City. At a party, she is suddenly summoned home by her father. He advises her that her cousin, Catalina, who married and moved away, had sent a strange letter saying that her husband was trying to poison her and that there were voices coming from the walls among other things. Mr. Taboada instructs Noemi that she is to go visit her cousin to ascertain the true nature of the young woman’s situation.

Thus begins Noemi’s journey into darkness. The house Catalina now lives in, High Place, is foreboding and very Gothic in nature. Mold seeps through the wallpaper and everything is damp and dark. The inhabitants: Virgil Doyle (Catalina’s husband), Francis (Virgil’s cousin), Florence (Francis’ mother), Howard Doyle (Virgil’s father and patriarch of the family), and a few servants are similarly dark and strange. Noemi is like a fish out of water in their presence.

In addition to the gloomy nature of her new surroundings, our plucky heroine is allowed very little time with her cousin. She’s told by Virgil that Catalina has tuberculosis and needs medication and rest. 

The story continues with Noemi beginning to experience strange dreams that seem very real and a recurrence of sleepwalking, something she hadn’t done since childhood. In addition, she finds Catalina’s husband, Virgil, to be handsome, but cold and aloof, and somehow frighteningly sexual. Beset on all sides by the hostility emanating from the house and its inhabitants, Noemi clings to Francis, a rather introverted young man, as her only ally.  

Secrets abound and I was truly enjoying this book until I got around two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through – the place where mysteries begin to be revealed.

Now, a warning: a spoiler is coming. So, if you don’t want to know anything more, stop reading right here! 

One of the main mysteries in this novel revolves around Howard, the patriarch. He’s extremely old and not expected to live much longer. As Noemi begins to understand that she’s becoming a victim of the house and the Doyle family, it’s revealed to the reader that Howard is not just old – he’s ancient. He’s lived multiple lives and when his body begins to fail, his essence or mind or spirit, leaps from his decrepit shell into that of another – one of his relatives. And, thus, he lives on.

When I read this, my mouth fell open and I dropped my tablet.

“That’s my story!” I cried.

Indeed, it is the main premise of my novel, The Tao of the Viper, A Kate Pomeroy Mystery which was published in October 2019, eight months before Mexican Gothic

In The Tao, an old, old man, Ian Morrison, is part of an ancient cult and has the power to, when his corporal body fails, leap into that of another soul. Sound familiar? It did to me and from that moment on, I read with a different focus – looking for more similarities. And, I found them, the most notable of which was the ending of the book (which I won’t reveal here.)

Coincidence? Great minds thinking alike?

Probably. As I mentioned, my novel was published eight months earlier and, in the indie publishing world, that’s a long time. However, in the traditional publishing world, it’s but a nano-second. So, the possibility that Ms. Moreno-Garcia read my book, wrote or edited her book, and got it published by a traditional publisher in eight months is highly unlikely. However, it spoiled the read for me. 

In conclusion, my rating, four stars, is not based on the similarities between her book and mine. It is based, rather, on the pacing and the fact that I felt some of the characters were rather flat and needed more fleshing out. It’s a good read with lots of spooky, scary stuff and I recommend it. However, if you’re into Gothic, I also recommend The Bone Weaver’s Orchard  by Sarah Read (reviewed on my blog earlier this year, http://lindawatkins.biz/a-masterpiece-of-gothic-horror-the-bone-weavers-orchard-by-sarah-read/) which, in my opinion, is way better!