Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Del Rey
American release date: June 30, 2020
Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Gothic/Historical Fantasy/320 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Noemi is a pretty girl who likes to party and to socialize, happy to show off her extensive wardrobe of beautiful clothes. She’s attracted many suitors, but isn’t serious about any of them, including her latest, Hugo Duarte. She’s as fickle with her studies, having changed majors a few times, unsure what she wants to do. But when her father requests that she check on her recently wed cousin, Catalina, after receiving a disturbing letter from her, she reluctantly agrees to go. Catalina’s marriage was both shockingly sudden and secretive, and no one has even met the groom, Virgil Doyle. And now Catalina appears to be in distress, so what else can Noemi do?
Noemi travels by train to the home of her cousin and her new family. Known as High Place, it’s in a remote location, far from Mexico City. The house is huge, and at one time perhaps elegant, but now it is dark and forbidding and decaying. Besides Catalina and her husband, the other residents of the house are Virgil’s father, Howard Doyle, and Virgil’s aunt, Florence and her son, Francis.
Florence is buttoned-up and strict, and doesn’t hesitate to spell out the rules to Noemi, many of which seem ridiculous. No hot baths, only cold? No smoking? No using the car or leaving the house without permission or alone? Limited access to Catalina, who apparently sleeps a lot – doctor’s orders. Is this a home or a prison?
Noemi tries to make sense of what is happening with Catalina, and thinks she may need psychiatric assistance. Not to mention a different physician, or at least a second opinion. The things her cousin says about the walls talking to her, and seeing things… this could be serious, beyond the ken of the family doctor, whom she doesn’t trust.
The house is dark and gloomy, a condition exacerbated by a dearth of light bulbs. But the inhabitants seem not to notice. The only person Noemi feels able to talk to, outside of Catalina, is Francis. But he’s so pale and weak, especially when compared to Catalina’s husband, Virgil, who is exceptionally good-looking. But there is something about Virgil that isn’t quite right either.
Can Noemi solve the mystery of High Place… or will it claim her and Catalina both?
Set in 1950 Mexico, this tale is both original and familiar. It kept me constantly guessing from beginning to end, wondering what was going on in this horrible place. And in the end, I wasn’t even close. Noemi might be a somewhat entitled heroine, and far from perfect, but she is engaging, and has spirit enough to match any traditional gothic heroine. I liked her as much as I disliked most of the inhabitants of High Place.
I will definitely have to read more of this author’s works, this is an amazing novel. I kept thinking it would make a great movie or series, and then I read that it is in development as a Hulu series, so keep your eye out for that. I know I will!
This is a must-read for those who love gothic novels and horror stories and appreciate twists. A definite page-turner.