Silver Nitrate

Book Review: Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

References to classic paranoid thrillers and horror movies abound in the latest novel by bestselling author Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic), which is apt given the sleuthing and supernatural themes woven throughout. Montserrat is struggling to make it as a woman sound editor in the male-dominated movie industry of 1993 Mexico City. While she is better than most of her peers at the company she works for, her unwillingness to abide their chauvinist behavior means she finds herself increasingly passed over for work. Her childhood best friend and one-time crush Tristán is also struggling to find acting roles after being more-or-less blackballed because of his involvement in a tragic car accident that took the life of his then girlfriend.

After Tristán breaks up once again with his latest lover and moves into a smaller apartment, he discovers that one of his new neighbors is cult film director Abel Urueta, whose last horror project, Behind the Yellow Wall, was mysteriously never completed and nearly all trace of it was scrubbed from existence. Montserrat and Tristán share a mutual appreciation of fright films, with the former especially loving them, and knowing her interest in the lost movie, Tristán immediately arranges for her to meet the reclusive filmmaker. Abel reveals to the pair that the movie itself is cursed and said curse has manifested in a string of bad luck for all involved in its making, but that he has the only remaining reel of film from the project, and that if they can help him to complete it the curse should instead become a blessing. Montserrat leaps at the opportunity, but after they are done, strange and frightening occurrences begin to follow them, and they need to find out the whole story of the making of Behind the Yellow Wall before it’s too late.

Montserrat and Tristán are great characters, whose relationship is fully believable and filled with the sort of mutual affection and occasional mild resentment that could only come from being important parts of each other’s lives for so long, and so hanging out with them is a treat. The mystery is fun to follow and filled with well-placed references to real life occult figures. Likewise, horror movie buffs will enjoy spotting the direct and indirect shout-outs to classic genre pieces from around the world. For the most part this book isn’t especially frightening, focusing on the investigative aspects of the story more than anything else, though a few moments do inspire shivers. It’s another fun ride from Moreno-Garcia, that is a near perfect read as we begin to see the transition from Summer into the more traditionally spooky Fall season. ★★★★

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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