Book Review: Velvet Was the Night

Silvia Moreno Garcia

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

published: 17th August 2021
spoilers? no


From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a riveting noir about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman that brings them together.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, 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. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Galley provided by publisher

Velvet Was the Night is, as with pretty much every Silvia Moreno Garcia book I’ve read, a highly accomplished and engaging novel. I truly believe that Silvia Moreno Garcia could write any genre she wished to and every one would be amazing.

The book follows two POVs: Maite, a secretary who ends up caught up in a missing persons case, and Elvis, someone who is also looking for the missing student, albeit with different aims in mind. It’s a twisty-turny thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat as it becomes a race to find Leonora.

Let me start with what I loved about this book, because I don’t quite know how to articulate why I’ve rated it 3.5, lower than all of the other books I’ve read by this author. Firstly, there’s just how alive Silvia Moreno Garcia makes the world she’s writing in. Whether it’s been fantasy, historical, or horror, I always feel like I’m right there with the characters when I’m reading her books. 

Part of that is also to do with the characters she creates. After reading a fair few books where I’ve felt the characters are ones you can sum up in a word or two, the ones here jump off the page. They’re not what you might conventionally call good people—they’re a lot greyer than that—but they’re compelling. You won’t always like them, but you’ll want to keep reading about them.

I think, if I had to give a shot at explaining just why I’ve rated this like I have, I’d say that perhaps there was just something missing for me compared to her other books. The others have stayed with me long after I’ve finished them—I am, on some level, always thinking about the sharks of Untamed Shore, for example—but I didn’t have that here. I can’t quite articulate it more clearly than that.

But on the whole, I very much enjoyed reading this one. It’s one you should definitely be on the lookout for this August, whether you’ve read anything by this author before or not.

(Although, Ms Moreno Garcia, if you could stop including such large age-gap relationships in your books, I would be most appreciative.)

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