Originally posted on Leah’s Books.
- Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Genre: Horror
- Publication Date: June 30, 2020
- Publisher: Del Rey
CONTENT WARNING: racism, mention of death, blood, gore, murder, suicide
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside, unsure what she will find.
Noemí is an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and not afraid: not of her cousin’s new English husband, a stranger who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Noemí’s only ally in this inhospitable place is the family’s youngest son. But he too may be hiding something dark. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place, as Noemí discovers when she begins to unearth stories of violence and madness.
Mesmerized by this terrifying yet seductive world, Noemí may soon find it impossible to save her cousin—or even escape this enigmatic house.
This book made so many waves when it first came out, and I remember feeling like the only person who hadn’t read it. And why was I the only person not reading this book? Because I’m a chicken. I don’t watch scary movies, don’t read scary books, and I was worried that this was going to fall into the scary category. But … I wound up picking it up to fulfill a prompt in the Popsugar challenge, and told myself that I’d stop if it got to be too much.
While this book is classified as horror, it’s more creepy than actually scary, which is totally the kind of book I can get behind. The author is a master of gothic fiction, and this book is seriously a masterpiece. We start out with Noemí, who has a reputation as flighty but has lofty goals, and needs her father’s approval to further her schooling. And the perfect opportunity arises when her cousin sends a concerning letter. She’s chosen to go check things out and report back.
“But she quickly assured herself that Father had picked her for this mission, and accomplish it she would. Flighty? Bah. She’d show Father the dedication he wanted from her. Perhaps he’d come to see her, after her success—for she could never picture herself failing—as more deserving and mature.”
The whole tone of the book changes when she arrives at High Place. It gets creepy immediately, and it felt like there was a pall hanging over the entire estate. Noemí is convinced that there has to be a rational reason for the vivid nightmares that she begins to experience, but can’t seem to find any specific thing that could be at fault for this.
“‘There’re heavy places. Places where the air itself is heavy because an evil weighs it down. Sometimes it’s a death, could be it’s something else, but the bad air, it’ll get into your body and it’ll nestle there and weigh you down.’”
There’s a huge sense of ‘oh my god, what is coming,” that I felt while reading, and I was enchanted by the writing style. Things stick to just weird at first, but around the halfway point, things go downhill. Noemí is staying in this dark and eerie house, and the people who live there aren’t very welcoming. It forces her to take a look at the acceptable standards (in the 1950s, when the book is set) for men and women, and how different they are. She’s limited in what she is able to do, and I was so frustrated for her:
“She thought that men such as her father could be stern and men could be cold like Virgil, but women needed to be liked or they’d be in trouble. A woman who is not liked is a bitch, and a bitch can hardly do anything: all avenues are closed to her.”
I was completely blindsided by the twists in the plot that led to the end of the book. While the plot itself takes a while to develop, the story is fast-paced right from the start. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire second half of the book, and just kept reading as my jaw dropped more and more. It’s a little gory, and I swear, I’ll never be able to look at mushrooms the same after this. But it’s amazing, and has cemented Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s place in my list of favorite authors.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 5