by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Family bonds have never been so strong
1950s socialite, Noemí, receives a worrying letter from her recently married cousin, Catalina, and sets off to investigate. Catalina is now living with husband, Virgil, at his family home, High Place, a remote, dilapidated pile in which the family’s history and traditions are kept very much alive.
This is gothic in the Hammer Horror style, with a haunted house, women wandering around in floaty attire (usually nighties or antique wedding dresses), an attractive Machiavellian antagonist, lots of gore and a malevolent fungus. What’s not to like?
The horror tropes are deftly handled and balanced with a light wit. The writing is sensual and atmospheric:
The house, so quiet, with its curtains drawn was like a dress lined with lead.
Moreno-Garcia has created a winning character in Noemí, who has her flaws (if partying, disposable boyfriends and a love of fashion can be considered flaws), but over the course of the novel matures into a believable, strong woman.
The author has a knack for writing page-turning adventures (Gods of Jade and Shadow, set in jazz age Mexico) which draw on myths from a variety of cultures. She refreshes the gothic genre with comment on eugenics.
Pacey, full of action and hugely enjoyable.
Amanda Read is a novelist and short story writer. Her novel LOST & WAITING releases on 2 July.