Argentina, winter 1913.
Ursula Kelp, a young English gardener, travels to Buenos Aires to take up the role of head gardener at a long-abandoned estate in the Pampas. The current owner wishes to return to the estate with his family and restore the once-famous gardens to their former glory.
Travelling deep into the Pampas, the vast grasslands of South America, Ursula arrives to warnings from the locals that the estate is haunted, cursed to bring tragedy to the founding family of Las Lágrimas. And soon Ursula believes that her loneliness is making her imagine things – the sound of footsteps outside her bedroom door, the touch of hands on her shoulders when there’s no one there. Most strangely of all, she keeps hearing the frenzied sound of a man chopping down trees in the nearby forest with an axe, when all her staff are in sight.
As the strange occurrences intensify – with tragic consequences – Ursula questions if there’s truth in the rumours about the cursed estate. The family’s return is imminent – are they in danger? And the longer Ursula stays at the estate, the more she realises that she too is in mortal danger.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Haunting of Las Lágrimas!
There’s no denying it was love at first sight. It was the magnificent cover that drew my eye (the skull! the flowers!), the title that sparked my interest further (haunting! the promise of a Spanish / Latin American setting!) and the blurb that sealed the deal.
Was The Haunting of Las Lágrimas everything I’d hoped it would be? Well, perhaps not quite…
The Haunting of Las Lágrimas tells the tale of a young English woman who has been deeply let down by her family back in England and is still mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather with whom she shared her love of gardening. Travelling to Argentina, she thought there wouldn’t be an Englishman for miles and the weather would be nice and warm. Highly disappointed on both counts, she is working as part of a gardening team for an English family, until she manages to procure herself a job as head gardener on an abandoned estate in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out every other available gardener in the vicinity turned down the job because the estate is supposedly maldita – cursed.
Not one to believe in ghost stories and old wives’ tales, Ursula settles herself in the estate ominously called Las Lágrimas, the tears, determined to do a good job, to prove she can do it just as good or even better than any man. But before long, she starts noticing things, weird things, creepy things and the situation goes from bad to worse.
I was intrigued from the start, the opening chapter being a diary post from Ursula who clearly escaped something bad and is looking back at it, still quite traumatised. Similar in tone to my favourite classic, Rebecca, I expected a gothic tale in a gothic setting and The Haunting of Las Lágrimas delivered. The estate is a perfect setting, and so are the Pampas, the desolate Argentinian grasslands.
The Haunting of Las Lágrimas is a mix of historical fiction, thriller and horror. It always kept me interested and eager for more, and there are some magnificent spooky scenes in there that chilled me to the bone.
However, there was one element that bothered me, and I think many other readers will feel the same: there are quite a few instances of animal cruelty, and what’s worse: they felt very gratuitous and completely unnecessary (we know we’re dealing with maleficence here, we don’t need it spelled out in animal blood) and moreover some of it just doesn’t make sense, or at least it didn’t to me. I feel that telling you more would be spoiling, among other things, the main theme of the story, which you find out along the way and is too important a reveal for me to just tell you, so I’ll leave it at that, just beware if animal cruelty is difficult for you to read about.
Overall, The Haunting of Las Lágrimas was an entertaining and delightfully gothic haunted house story and I had a good time with it, bar a few scenes that unfortunately did affect my overall reading experience.
The Haunting of Las Lágrimas is out now in digital formats and paperback.
Thanks to Titan Books and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.