Posts Tagged ‘Bram Stoker Awards’

I think I’ve been hearing buzz about this novel since it was released last year. However, I only just got around to reading it recently (or more accurately, listening to it on audio book). I had somehow managed to stay spoiler-free despite the buzz, and knew nothing beyond the fact it was a Gothic novel set in 1950s Mexico. And knowing nothing, I was going in expecting something amazing.

Mexican Gothic follows Noemi Taboada, a young high-society woman living in Mexico City in 1950. That is, until a mysterious letter from her cousin Catalina arrives at the family home. Concerned, Noemi is sent out to check on her cousin, who has been living in the countryside since her marriage to a mysterious Englishman named Virgil Doyle at his family’s estate, High Place. When she arrives, she’s not surprised to find things are not what they appear. However, the biggest surprises are yet to come. And if Noemi’s not careful, she’ll find these surprises may keep her from leaving High Place. Forever.

I can see why this novel was nominated for a Bram Stoker award, it’s excellent!

For one thing, the language this book is written in is just beautiful, like a Victorian novel without being too stuffy or overly wordy and dramatic. From the opening chapters, I felt like I was listening to the sort of writing I aspire to write (maybe someday I will). And Moreno-Garcia uses this brilliant language to not only bring the novel to life in your mind, but to bring out this strong sense of atmosphere and dread. I could almost see High Place and feel the horror that Noemi felt.

Speaking of which, I loved Noemi. She’s a very spunky young woman who refuses to compromise or let anyone tell her what to do just because she’s a woman. I loved watching her go up against the stodgy, stuffy Doyles with their rigid ways and gloomy lives, as well as how she refused to submit.

In addition, Mexican Gothic‘s story has a unique twist on the concept of a haunted house. I won’t go into details, because it’s more fun for you to read it yourself. Let me just say, it’s different than anything I’ve read and you’ll probably find it pretty clever on a number of levels.

I can’t think of any real downsides to this story. If I did, it would be nitpicking on my part. I will warn some readers that there are some things in the novel that might be triggering to them. One of the characters turns out to be…skeevy, to put it mildly. Just warning you.

In any case, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a wonderful addition to the Gothic horror genre. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.7. Wonderfully written, ingenious and spooky. Pick up a copy and find out for yourself why people are raving about this book. Preferably before they decide the Bram Stoker winners in May.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

I heard about this book sometime last year and immediately requested my library buy copies (they did, and I was #1 on the list). I mean, a horror story set on the Titanic and having to do with some sort of creature living in the sea? Where do I sign up? And it came in for me at the library right before my library ceased operations due to the virus, so I was happy to get it when I did.

The Deep follows Annie Hebbley, a maid who works on the Titanic, and gets involved with the Fletcher family, a troubled married couple with a baby girl. Strange things occur on the ship leading up to that fateful (or fatal?) meeting. Years later, Annie meets Mark Fletcher, the very same man she waited on during that voyage, though now she’s a nurse on the Titanic’s sister ship the Britannic and he’s a wounded soldier returning from the battlefield of WWI. Coincidence? Or is something else at play? Something that has unfinished business with these ships and their passengers?

Let me tell you, this book has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s set partially on the Titanic, which is always a fascinating topic and setting for any story. And turning it into a ghost story? Even cooler.* That, and the Titanic sailed during the Edwardian era, which is close enough to my beloved Victorian era that I felt right at home.

But beyond that, this is one damn good horror novel. Author Alma Katsu takes a psychological approach to this story, using hints to keep us guessing as to what’s going on. Are people going crazy onboard? Is there something supernatural afoot? Whether it be a seance or someone acting strange, you’re kept very up in the air about it up until the last fifth or so of the book, and even then, you may still have questions.

At the same time, you get to know a lot of these characters intimately. It’s a big cast, told from the points of views of Annie, Mark Fletcher and his wife Caroline, you have the POVs of several historical figures, including boxers Dai Bowen and Leslie Williams, whom I absolutely fell in love with; Madeleine Astor, worried about an alleged curse on her unborn child; and William Stead, an aged journalist with an interest in the occult.** But Katsu does a great job of developing each and every character and giving them a unique voice and issues to explore.

A lot of attention is paid to detail as well, the same sort of attention that went visually into James Cameron’s movie. It really brings alive the setting for both ships, and makes you feel like you’re there. And there are plenty of moments filled with tension, such as the aforementioned seance, a scene at the saltwater pool, or close to the very end, when things are finally revealed.

The ship may have sunk, but the stories about it, like my heart, will go on. And in some cases, get very creepy.

All these factors kind of make it feel like you’re watching a really dark and spooky stageplay about the Titanic, only you’re reading it out of a book. In fact, I can imagine The Deep being made into a stageplay someday, or perhaps even a Broadway musical, one that’s scarier and has less humor than Sweeney Todd. I’d even help adapt it if someone deemed me experienced enough and wanted me to.

I can’t find anything to put as a downside to this novel. Some might find it a bit too slow, or maybe too much time is spent on the characters’ problems and backstories. I didn’t, but I can see other people feeling that way.

Overall, I’m giving The Deep by Alma Katsu a 4.5 out of 5. It’s an unnerving, intimate historical horror novel that’ll have you enthralled. Pick up a copy, put on that one Celine Dion song you’re probably thinking of, and get ready to dive in to what may be a contender for next year’s Bram Stoker awards.

*Of course, when I try to turn a luxury cruise liner into a ghost story, Disney’s lawyers come after me. How was I supposed to know ritualistic murder wasn’t allowed in international waters? It’s always okay in wartime!

**I recognized him from my own research into Victorian England. When I came across him and the reference to the occult, I literally shouted “Wait, I know this guy!” to my empty apartment.