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.
Hi and welcome to my review of Velvet Was the Night!
This has been my fourth book by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, after Mexican Gothic, which I reviewed last year, and The Beautiful Ones, which I reviewed earlier this year, and in the meantime I’ve also listened to Untamed Shores (Recommended, the narrator is brilliant!). What they all have in common, is that they have nothing in common except for excellent writing. Ms Moreno-Garcia is definitely one of the most prolific authors I’ve read. Different genres, different eras, but her stories never fail to grab and hold my attention, and Velvet Was the Night was no different.
Velvet Was the Night takes us to Mexico in the 1970s, with the narrative alternating between Maite and Elvis. Maite has just turned thirty and has to remind herself that thirty is not (as bad as) fifty. Her career is not what she wants it to be, she lives alone in her apartment with her parakeet, and frankly the most glamorous about her, is her book and record collection (we’ll just ignore her romance comic books for the time being, shall we). Elvis is… well… a bit of a thug, really. But the kind of thug you suspect is actually a good guy deep down and despite everything you find yourself rooting for him.
Their lives collide through Leonora, who lives across the hall from Maite and has something Elvis’s boss (and the DFS and the KGB and seemingly the whole of Mexico) wants to take from her: compromising photos of a high-level politician. Leonora is only in the story for 5 minutes before she disappears but her actions set in motion a dozen other events.
Mexico in the 1970s is a country in turmoil. I hate to admit I knew very little about it, but I’d like to think I have at the very least got a feel for it now. The setting is truly amazing, as is the characterisation and the use of music to set the scene and get across a whole lot without using a multitude of words.
Velvet Was the Night is an excellent noir story. We’re always told not to judge a book by its cover but I’d like to invite you to ignore that in this instance because that smoky cover perfectly represents the noir vibe the story exudes. If you’re looking for a crime story that’s also sort of a love story in disguise, I urge you to pick up Velvet Was the Night.
In the meantime I’ll leave you with the last words of the author’s afterword:
My novel is noir, pulp fiction, but it’s based on a real horror story.
Velvet Was the Night will be out in all formats on the 17th.
Huge thanks to Jo Fletcher and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are still my own.