Wednesday 1 September 2021

VELVET WAS THE NIGHT by Silvia-Moreno Garcia


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. 

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.

I've already read three awesome books written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and loved every single one, so I was excited about this one.

It's 1971, Mexico City. Maite is a single secretary living a dull life full of routine, daydreaming and white lies. At least she's got her romance comic books and music to keep her company. Elvis is a thug and is part of a group that does whatever their boss tells them to. He doesn't do much else. Well, except for listening to his favourite music. The day Maite's neighbour, Lenore, disappears, her life is personally affected and leads her on a collision course with Elvis...

What an addictive story this turned out to be.

Yeah, I was pretty much hooked after the frenetic first chapter introducing us to Elvis and his criminal life. Then, after meeting the disillusioned and desperate for romantic adventure Maite, I knew I needed to follow these two on their separate paths and couldn't wait until they intersected.

The story is told in the alternating POVs of Maite and Elvis. Their existence parallels each other via association as they follow their own clues to find a missing girl for very different reasons. But both find themselves caught up in the brutal political intrigue that is shaking Mexico to the very core.

I actually liked both of these characters and enjoyed following their plight until the very end. These two find themselves in a lot of interesting situations, encounter some very problematic people, and never lose their individual drive. Or their flawed qualities, which made me like them more.

My favourite thing about this author is how well she captures every historical period she sets her stories in, as well as the location and whatever was happening at that particular time. I also love how versatile she is when it comes to genre. Every book she writes is in a different genre, and they're all full of interesting characters that keep me glued to the page.

Fantastic is the word that comes to mind.

Velvet Was the Night is an intriguing and violent noir mystery with a vivid sense of location, set during a turbulent political time in 1970s Mexico. There are a lot of criminal factions, dirty agents from all sides and students determined to start a revolution. Caught up in all of this commie paranoia are two individual daydreamers sleepwalking their lives away until a missing stranger changes them forever.

I can't wait to read more of this author's work because she's an awesome writer.

Thank you so much, Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.

Velvet was the Night, August 2021, ISBN 9781529417951, Jo Fletcher Books

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