Silvia Moreno Garcia
published: 11th February 2020
Renowned author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s first thriller, UNTAMED SHORE, is a coming-of-age story set in Mexico which quickly turns dark when a young woman meets three enigmatic tourists.
Baja California, 1979. Viridiana spends her days watching the dead sharks piled beside the seashore, as the fishermen pull their nets. There is nothing else to do, nothing else to watch, under the harsh sun. She’s bored. Terribly bored. Yet her head is filled with dreams of Hollywood films, of romance, of a future beyond the drab town where her only option is to marry and have children.
Three wealthy American tourists arrive for the summer, and Viridiana is magnetized. She immediately becomes entwined in the glamorous foreigners’ lives. They offer excitement, and perhaps an escape from the promise of a humdrum future.
When one of them dies, Viridiana lies to protect her friends. Soon enough, someone’s asking questions, and Viridiana has some of her own about the identity of her new acquaintances. Sharks may be dangerous, but there are worse predators nearby, ready to devour a naïve young woman who is quickly being tangled in a web of deceit.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is one of the most exciting voices in fiction, and with her first crime novel, UNTAMED SHORE, she crafts a blazing novel of suspense with an eerie seaside setting and a literary edge that proves her a master of the genre.
Galley provided by publisher
Have you ever read a book where you finish and you need a definite moment to catch your breath after all that’s happened? That was me reading this one. It’s a slowburning thriller, but when the twists come, they come thick and fast.
In Untamed Shore, we follow Viridiana, an 18-year-old living in the village of Desengaño, who wants nothing more than to escape it. One summer, she is hired to act as translator and assistant to three rich American tourists. But then one of them dies and Viridiana finds herself having lied to protect people she comes to find she doesn’t really know.
What first strikes you about this book is just how gorgeous and evocative Silvia Moreno Garcia’s writing is. It sounds trite to say it, but it really does feel like you’re there yourself. You can picture everything that’s happening, and it also just keeps sucking you in, making you not want to stop reading at any point. I think it’s safe to say that the writing alone could have convinced me to read all of Moreno Garcia’s other books.
But books don’t stand for much solely based on writing. There has to be more, with plot and with characters, and Moreno Garcia knocks both of these out the park here. First, the characters. We see everyone through Viridiana’s gaze, which starts initially as quite naive and then becomes less so (no spoilers, but…….yeaaaaah), so it’s not an entirely reliable narrative. I mean, you the reader are able to see that particular characters are not so perfect as Viridiana believes them to be (such that, on occasion, Viridiana is surprised at a turn of events where you are not), but the way her perspective changes is part of the journey.
The plot is a slowburn, really. The aforementioned death doesn’t happen until a good 40% of the way through. Not that this is a bad thing, because it lets Viridiana get close to the characters, firstly, and secondly, the writing is enough to carry you through it easily. But when the action kicks in, from around when Lawrence arrives, suddenly everything gets more tense and you will not be able to stop reading (I’m honestly glad I read this book in the day so I wasn’t constantly going just one more chapter when I should have been sleeping).
And then the end! I think all I really wrote in reference to that in my notes was a few choice swearwords because, well, it sort of required them, given the circumstances. Because it leaves you speechless and unable to think about much beyond how well-crafted it is. How the symbolism of the sharks crescendoes in this moment.
And when you finish, you’re left needing to catch your breath by it all.