Velvet Was the Night
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 17 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 19 Aug 2021
Quercus Books, Jo Fletcher Books
1970s Mexico City: while student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite seeks escape from her humdrum life in the stories of passion and danger filling the latest issue of Secret Romance.
She is deeply envious of her neighbour, a beautiful art student apparently living the life of excitement and intrigue Maite craves - so when Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman, journeying deep into Leonora's secret life of student radicals and dissidents.
'Cements Silvia Moreno-Garcia's incredible versatility as an amazing writer who moves between genres effortlessly. A lush, magnificent trip into a world of danger and discovery. Not to be missed!' S.A. COSBY, author of BLACKTOP WASTELAND
But 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. Watching Maite from a distance, he comes to see her as a kindred spirit who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.
As Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora's disappearance, they can no longer escape the dangers threatening to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents and Russian spies all aiming to find or protect Leonora's secrets - at gunpoint.
Velvet Was the Night: an edgy, passionate, simmering noir thriller from a writer at the very top of her game.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 71 members
After being introduced to Silvia Moreno-Garcia's work through her much-loved title Mexican Gothic, I found that I loved her writing style, the depth that her writing gives to the characters and her ability to produce twists and turns throughout her well-thought-out and unique novels. Velvet Was the Night is no exception to this. Set amid the backdrop of Mexico's Dirty War in the aftermath of the awful Tlatelolco massacre which saw students and activists massacred by right-wing government-sponsored groups, Velvet Was the Night is described as a noir thriller that follows Elvis, a member of 'the Hawks', a paramilitary force attempting to root out communist and subversive influences in Mexico, and Maite, a secretary who dreams of a life like the ones she reads in her romantic comic books. The reader is immediately set into action with a well-placed telegram from the US which explains who the Hawks are and what they did. We are then introduced to Elvis, who we see is not ideologically drawn to the mission of the Hawks but instead joined because of the lack of opportunities available to him as a poverty-stricken young person. Then, we meet Maite, who is bored of her life and gets lost in the worlds of her Secret Romance comics, dreaming of becoming a heroine and meeting a romantic hero to whisk her away. The characters see their stories intertwine as Elvis is told to find a series of photographs taken by an art student and activist called Leonora, who also happens to be the neighbour that Maite is cat-sitting for. Both characters are then drawn into a thrilling adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat, desperate to read more as you flip through each page. I thought the characters were extremely well-explored and we get a real sense of their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. We get a sense that both Elvis and Maite feel misunderstood and out of place in their worlds. As described early on: "Maite frowned, resenting all the precious, perfect people who went around with no care in the world." By the end of the novel, you come to truly feel for the characters and you are rooting for them, realising that Elvis doesn't want to do the things that are asked of him and that Maite has enjoyed the chance at an adventure. Elvis's battle with morality that we see throughout the novel shows his character growth and by the end, we see him have a real grasp on what he believes is right and wrong. The ending provided a real sense of closure for the story. Ultimately, the character progress is fantastically done and we see Maite grow into herself, realising that she is enough as a person and we see her start to fall in love with life again, just as we see Elvis move away from the things that have been bad for him. As someone who has studied Mexican history and politics, I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and setting created by Moreno-Garcia and thought that this novel would be a great entry point for anyone interested in the period or looking to learn more from the perspective of individuals caught up in it. It moves away from the meta-narratives of history to show the impact of this period of history on individuals from all angles. Moreno-Garcia perfectly encapsulates the complexity of Mexican politics as Elvis thinks to himself that "someone's got to spy on someone" and we get a real idea of how confusing it was to be caught up in the political chaos of this period, from two individuals with seemingly unpolitical lives who lack interest in politics. By having Elvis and Maite connect over their love of rock music and comics, this was a quietly powerful reference to the censorship of these aspects of life in this period of Mexican history and shows how these individuals, as many probably did, engaged in quiet acts of protest. Finally, the title was expertly chosen and I loved the references to the song 'Strangers in the Night' that both of the characters listen to as well as "Blue Velvet', and by the end, we get a real sense of how well-weaved throughout the novel the title really is - this was expertly done. This novel is perfect for fans of mystery, thriller and romance and it does a great job of decolonising the noir, thriller genre. I can't wait to read more of Moreno-Garcia's work and I would recommend that everyone grab a copy of Velvet Was the Night when it comes out on the 17th.