Velvet Was the Night

Del Rey: Ballantine. Aug. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780593356821. $28. SUSPENSE
Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic) steps away from her usual fantasy for this noir title that mixes history, star-crossed lovers, and political upheaval. In 1970s Mexico City, students are demonstrating against the corrupt government and demanding reform. Goon squads run by shadowy operatives use increasingly brutal methods to quash the protests. During this violent and dangerous time, Maite, a secretary who finds escapism in romance comics and rock and roll records, is cat-sitting for her neighbor Leonora. When Leonora disappears, Maite goes in search of her glamorous neighbor and enters Leonora’s milieu of student activists and artists. She’s not the only one hunting for Leonora. Elvis, a reluctant goon squad member and lonely heart who loves rock and roll and old movies, is sent by his boss to find Leonora and retrieve some incriminating photos. Surveilling her apartment building leads him to Maite, a kindred spirit. Will these two find each other—or even make it out alive? Moreno-Garcia keeps the suspense high and the action intense, all while sharing a bit of 1970s Mexican history in this perfectly pitched novel.
VERDICT Fans of Moreno-Garcia’s other novels will relish this title, as will noir aficionados and readers who like stories about everymen and -women rising to the occasion.
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