Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic

silvia moreno garcia mexican gothic
Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic

A worrisome letter from her cousin Catalina brings Noemí to a remote place called „High Place“. Only a year ago, Catalina married Virgil Doyle and moved with him in the mansion close to a former mine where the British family made a fortune. Even though it is 1950, there is still no electricity in the house and Noemí feels like being in a British novel of the 19th century. Her cousin is in an awful state, not only physically, but also mentally and she does not only rely on the medication of the family doctor but also got some tincture from a local healer. Strange rules make it difficult for Noemí to adapt to life in the house and it does not take too long until she herself feels that something strange is going on in there. She has very lively nightmares and cannot get rid of the impression that the walls are talking to her. Is she also going mad like Catalina?

Quite often you open a novel and while reading you have the impression that the title and the plot do hardly have any connection. In Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s book „Mexican Gothic“, however, the title perfectly announces what you will get: a wonderful Gothic horror story in the style of the 18th and 19th century. A spooky old mansion in a remote place without any available help close by, a mysterious cemetery whose inhabitants seem to wander about, nightmares, terror and morbidity accomplish it.

Noemí is presented as an educated yet a bit shallow young woman who cares more about partying and having fun than worrying about her family. Therefore, she only reluctantly follows her father‘s orders to put an eye on Catalina‘s situation. When she arrives at High Place, she continues her slightly contemptuous behaviour towards the Dolye family. Only after having talked to Catalina is she moved a bit and willing to help her cousin. Her stubbornness prevents her from being absorbed by the strange activities in the house.

Soon, however, the fine line between reality and insanity becomes more and more blurry, not only is neither the protagonist nor the reader sure if Noemí‘s dreams are only very vivid or if there are frightening things under way. And then, the horror show really begins.

I totally adored how the author gradually drags the young woman and the reader into this story which oscillates between fascinations and abhorrence. Even though you are well aware that most of what happens cannot be real, it is easy to imagine that in such an old house, ghosts could roam and walls could    talk. A magnificent read which transports you to a time long gone and a world where much more is possible.

Gabriella Ullberg Westin – Der Todgeweihte

gabriella-ullberg-westin-der-todgeweihte
Gabriella Ullberg Westin – Der Todgeweihte

Nächtliche Schüsse im Zentrum des beschaulichen Hudiskvall mit einem Toten und einer Schwerverletzten stellen die Polizei vor Fragezeichen. Im Umfeld der Opfer können Kriminalinspektor Johan Rokka und seine Kollegen keine Motive für den brutalen Mord finden. Doch dann werden die Ermittlungen für Rokka noch deutlich erschwert als Louise Hojier, die Frau seines Cousins und Mutter der 5-jährigen Silje, auf einer Geschäftsreise verschwindet. Eigentlich darf er in diesem Fall nicht ermitteln, aber das Personal ist knapp und so lässt man ihn nach der top Informatikerin eines erfolgreichen Start-Ups suchen. Dass sein Bruder Daniel unerwartet nach 15 Jahren Funkstille plötzlich vor ihm steht, macht die Lage auch nicht einfacher, denn Daniel ist Morphium-abhängig und offenbar todkrank. Nicht nur Johan Rokkas schwerster, sondern vor allem sein persönlichster Fall, doch wie persönlich dieser wird, ahnt er noch gar nicht…

Die Schwedin Gabriella Ullberg Westin konnte sich mit ihrer Serie um den Inspektor Johan Rokka schnell einen vorderen Platz in der Riege der skandinavischen Krimiautoren sichern. Sein dritter Fall setzt die Reihe überzeugend fort und stellt einmal mehr unter Beweis, dass auch fernab der Hauptstadt spannende Geschichten erzählt werden können. Der Protagonist steht dieses Mal mehr denn je unter Beschluss, blieb er gerade im ersten Band noch etwas undurchschaubar, wird Rokka zunehmend sympathisch und als Figur greifbarer.

Die beiden Fälle scheinen zunächst nichts miteinander zu tun zu haben, gerade der Anschlag auf die beiden jungen Kinobesucher kommt nicht voran. Dafür wird das Umfeld des Inspektors schnell interessant. Die Nebenhandlung um Amanda ist zwar recht vorhersehbar, die Bedeutung ihrer Täuschung jedoch wird erst später offenkundig. Der Fall ist als ganz persönliche Herausforderung für Johan Rokka angelegt, hätte aber durchaus auch das Potenzial zu einem Wirtschaftskrimi gehabt, diese Chance hat Ullberg Westin leider verschenkt, denn so richtig wird nicht klar, welche Bedeutung für die Sicherheitstechnik Louises Erfindung haben könnte. Dies tut der Spannung jedoch keinen Abbruch, die sich stetig steigert im Laufe der Handlung.

Ein sauber konzipierter Krimi, dessen Fäden langsam zusammenlaufen und am Ende keine Fragen offenlassen. Die Entwicklung der Figuren wird von Fall zu Fall besser, womit Ullberg Westin meine Erwartungen voll erfüllt hat.

Claire Douglas – Do not Disturb

claire-douglas-do-not-disturb
Claire Douglas – Do Not Disturb

After her husband’s breakdown, Kirsty and her family move from London to Hywelphilly, a small village in Wales where they buy a guesthouse. After weeks of refurbishing, they look forward to welcoming the first guests, among them to Kirsty’s dislike her cousin Selena whom she hasn’t seen for more than sixteen years. They had been like sisters, but Selena’s constant lying lead to the inevitable break. Kirsty’s two daughters Evie and Amelia struggle with the move at first, but when Selena and her daughter Ruby arrive, the house awakes. The cousins manage to sort out their quarrels; yet, Kirsty cannot get rid of the feeling that Selena still does not tell her the complete truth. When Selena’s former boyfriend shows up to rent a room, the atmosphere gets tense and with the arrival of Kirsty’s brother and his wife, trouble is in the air. And then, the worst fears come true: Selena gets murdered.

I really liked the novel because Claire Douglas has well dosed the revelation of secrets the characters keep – and there are many of them. Everybody has something to hide, buried down in his or her mind, even the nice ones are not what they seem at the first glance. There is something mysterious about the house, the whispers of the village inhabitants add to this and many of the incidents are hard to make sense of.

The novel is told from Kirsty’s perspective, quite normally, you are biased in what she tells as you only get her limited point of view. On the other hand, this adds to the suspense and you can easily share her feeling of unease. To me, Kirsty is authentic in her action and in the way she tries to protect her family. Since it is not clear where the threat comes from, you suspiciously eye all the other characters simply to learn in the end that you were completely wrong. I absolutely liked that especially since the whole mystery is solved convincingly.

“Do not disturb” triggers the biggest fear: having evil in your own home, the place where you want to feel safe and secure and where you assume that also your children are protected. Many twists and turns and unexpected revelations keep suspense high throughout the novel, a mystery thriller just as it should be.