Velvet Was The Night – Silvia Moreno Garcia

Image credits: Del Rey Books

“Maite understood little, but she grasped this: that beneath banal phrases and appeals to the good of the nation something dangerous simmered.”

Velvet Was The Night is an historical novel written by Silvia Moreno Garcia. I love her book Signal to Noise, which I read about seven years ago, and was very excited to read other books by this Mexican-born author.

Both books are set in Mexico; this one is a political noir, as it takes place in 1970s Mexico City at the beginning of what is commonly known as the “Dirty War.”

The story is told in third person and narrated through the point of view of two characters who lead very different lives. Maite is a thirty-year-old woman who enjoys reading romance comics (which, according to the author, were pretty popular in Mexico during those years); she is a secretary at a law firm and her days are lonely. Since she has a somewhat estranged relationship with her mother and sister, she lives by herself and spends non-working days in the company of her comic books and her vinyl records (she has a huge collection of imported vinyls, which I found super interesting, as I am a vinyl collector myself). Her life suddenly turns upside down when her neighbor Leonora vanishes after leaving her cat for Maite to take care of, and the protagonist finds herself involved with political dissidents while trying to solve the mystery of Leonora’s disappearance.

Elvis is part of the Hawks, a squad who unofficially works for the government to suppress political activism in a time of unrest for Mexico. He wishes to leave his job because he doesn’t like all the violence and brutality that are part of it.

These two people’s paths will intertwine while searching for Leonora; they both have to overcome different obstacles and dangers until they meet each other.

The book is a crime noir but it’s a slow-burner; it took me a little while to get into the flow of the story but this is compensated by Silvia Moreno Garcia’s brilliant writing and her talent for solid storytelling and the way she deals with character-building.

It is a book about loneliness, about feeling misplaced and finding your people. It is also about political beliefs and the way people perceive politics in their life (Maite isn’t very interested in politics and doesn’t know much about political activism, while Rubén, one of the “subversives” with whom she investigates Leonora’s disappearance, is very opinionated about the whole matter). I wasn’t familiar with Mexican history so it was interesting to get a glimpse of life in the country during the 70s.

At the end of the novel you come across Silvia Moreno Garcia’s curated Spotify playlist, which includes songs by Frankie Valli and Nancy Sinatra; I am listening to it while writing this review (the first song brought to mind the Pulp Fiction movie!) and I think the author made excellent song choices when she put the playlist together.

There are no movie adaptations of this novel since it’s pretty new(it came out in the summer of 2021) but I personally would love to see this made into a movie!

OTHER BOOKS YOU MAY LIKE: I would recommend Signal To Noise by the same author because it has similar vibes, it is a mix of music, romance, magic…and vinyl records are part of this story, too!

I am also looking forward to reading Silvia Moreno’s Garcia’s other novels, especially Mexican Gothic, (which is perhaps her most famous book, as it was a New York Times Best-Seller) and Certain Dark Things (one of her early novels about vampires).


%d bloggers like this: