The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her.
Noemí's chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.
Tough and smart, she possesses an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin's new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi's dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family's youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family's past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family's once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .
Moreno-Garcia's energetic romp through the gothic genre (after Gods of Jade and Shadow) is delightfully bonkers. In the 1950s, Noem , a flirtatious socialite and college student, travels from Mexico City to rescue her cousin Catalina from the nightmarish High Place, a remote Mexican mountain villa. Catalina has recently married the chilly, imperiously seductive Virgil Doyle, heir to a now defunct British silver mining operation. Beset by mysterious fevers, Catalina has written to her uncle, Noem 's father, telling him, "This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment." Noem clashes with Virgil's father, Howard who subscribes to theories of eugenics along with a set of oddly robotic British servants. Beset by horrifying dreams and visions, and unsettled by a peculiar fungus that grows everywhere, Noem soon fears for her own life as well as Catalina's. In a novel that owes a considerable debt to the nightmarish horror and ornate language of H.P. Lovecraft, the situations in which Noem attempts to prevail get wilder and stranger with every chapter, as High Place starts exhibiting a mind of its own, and Noemi learns that Howard is far older than he appears to be. Readers who find the usual country house mystery too tame and languid won't have that problem here.