Tuesday, August 17, 2021

ARC Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Velvet Was the Night
Series: n/a
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Historical Fiction; Noir
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; August 17, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger. Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents. Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart. Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint. Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.

Velvet Was the Night is the fourth book I’ve read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. And, even though it was outside the box of the fantasy and gothic tales I’ve read and enjoyed in the past (think Gods of Jade and Shadow, The Return of the Sorceress, and Mexican Gothic), I’ve always been curious about Moreno-Garcia’s mysteries. Velvet was the Night was an incredibly engrossing story set against the backdrop of a historical setting and atmosphere that was built on true and fictional details about 1970’s Mexico (the author talks more about this in the afterword).

I’m impressed by how easily Moreno-Garcia pivots between fantasy, gothic, and noir. Because Velvet Was the Night is definitely a noir story, a mystery, but it had a focus on an urban setting, a slower pace, and a darker grittier tone.

The story is told from two perspectives: Maite and Elvis. Elvis was involved in the clandestine side of the story, related to the major crimes that much of the story revolved around. He was rough around the edges, but overall I liked how Moreno-Garcia wrote him. Maite is a character of habit. She was definitely lonely—and her family didn’t help with those feelings of isolation—and so her daily life, her entire week actually, was dictated by the habits she found familiar and comfortable (mainly her job and her collection of books and music). Like all the characters in Velvet Was the Night, Maite was someone who was disillusioned but also had a habit or got involved with people/situations that could mean trouble for her if ever discovered. She was somewhat naive in a setting with secondary characters that didn’t really allow for it. It was interesting to see how their stories would eventually overlap as the story played out.

I don’t read noir too often, but I had to dip my toes back into that water for this one. It was worth it, because Velvet Was the Night was so good. I almost wish there was a sequel, but after sitting with it for a while, I think the story’s conclusion was perfect for it. 

About the author....
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of the novels Velvet Was the Night, Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, and a bunch of other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters).

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Del Rey) via NetGalley for this review, thank you! 

2 comments:

  1. I love this genre and this book sounds so good. Great cover, too!

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    Replies
    1. I don't read too much of this subgenre, but when I saw Moreno-Garcia's name attached to it, I knew I had to check it out. It's a really great story, and I recommend it. Thanks for stopping by!

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