My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So good and so scary.
So scary that I flew through the last pages, and then had to reread them, first to know what happened, then to understand what happened.
So. Noemi is a young woman from a wealthy family, floating from interest to interest and boy to boy. She's a bit trapped by the family, in that she wants more than marriage but her father has limited her education because it's not the done thing for girls of her class during that time period (it's the 1950s, Mexico City.)
Her cousin Catalina, newly married, sends a weird letter saying her new husband Virgil Doyle may be poisoning her and Noemi's father decides that Noemi should travel to the countryside to discover what's happening. So Noemi leaves the big city for this tiny village and WOWZA. (And it's because patriarchy and the 1950s and family pride that her father doesn't call the police or some such.)
You have: a decaying manor house, a once rich family still leaving like the lords of the manor, who are arrogant about outsiders. And, racist. Noemi needs to figure out what is going on and what to do about Catalina, and also try to figure out who in the family and the nearby village she can trust.While there is a little of "is Catalina just crazy, or is something going on," and yes, this is a "something is going on" book and it's a doozy. And I won't spoil it, except it plays not just into usual haunted house tropes, and mysterious origins of family wealth stories, but also is about the Doyles' racism. And it's the type of book where you truly don't know where it is going and who will get out, if anyone.
Also good: the writing on a sentence level. Here, a description of a room: "his office was decorated in a modern style which seemed to echo the newness of the occupant's money."
More good: Noemi's wardrobe. Noemi's clothes are described in beautiful detail, and I loved it. I loved them on a superficial level, picturing it, and so able to play this movie in my head. But I also loved how in her own way, Noemi was like Cher from Clueless: yes, she seemed like just another rich and spoiled girl, but there was more to her, and her clothes are both message and armor.
Last point: the Doyle family patriarch, Howard Doyle, I totally pictured as Prince Philip. Which may or may not be deliberate by the author.
SO scary, right? This is not the first or only recent SFF book I've read that featured horrifying fungus, but it has to be among the most horrifying. I loved this book.
Ooh, I'm sold. Thanks!
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