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.
Thank you to Ella Patel & Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy. I can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Velvet was the night is not the sort of book I would usually pick up, but Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an auto-buy author for me, and one of the few authors who has managed to get me to read and love horror so I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Because I’ve never read noir before, I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Moreno-Garcia brings her usual atmospheric and romantic writing style to bring to life a story filled with morally grey characters, drama and plenty of action.
Maite hates her life. Her job as a legal secretary pays the bills but doesn’t let her have the romantic and extravagant lifestyle she longs to have. When her young and beautiful neighbour Leonora asks her to look after her cat, Maite jumps at the chance, Leonora is everything she wishes she was, and the chance to scope out her apartment is too good to pass. Only Leonora disappears, leaving Maite with the cat as well as the mystery of where exactly her neighbour has disappeared too. Elvis is a Hawk, a member of an underground criminal group. He also longs for a different life, one without violence, where he can listen to music and enjoy the love of a woman. When his boss asks him to look into the disappearance of Leonora, he finds himself intrigued by her neighbour, a woman who seems just as lonely as he is. Neither know who is behind Leonora’s disappearance, but both find themselves dragged into the mystery. A mystery that runs deeper than either of them know.
Velvet was the Night follows our two MC’s Maite & Elvis. Maite has always lived in the shadow of someone else, be it her little sister or the younger and prettier women her lovers leave her for. She instead lives vicariously through her comic drama’s such as Secret Romance, always daydreaming the characters into existence, and never quite realising the anger that reality sometimes brings. She spends her weekends in the apartment she can’t afford, listening to the expensive records she shouldn’t have bought, and constantly believing she deserves a better life.
Elvis is a child of circumstance, growing up in a home with too many mouths to feed, the life of a gangster seemed inevitable, but it’s not the life he wants. He dreams of a life filled with music and the love of a good woman, but El Mago, his boss, is not someone who can be easily crossed, and Elvis is finding it harder and harder to envision a life outside of the Hawks, the only family he’s ever known. Though Maite and Elvis are our only POV’s, Moreno-Garcia brings us her usual cast of brilliantly rendered side characters, from Elvis’ Hawks to the members of the political movement Leonora was apart of before she disappeared. Every single one helps further the story along, add something to Maite and Elvis’s stories and character growth and all play a part of the mystery of what exactly happened to Leonora.
Moreno-Garcia’s writing style brings 1970’s Mexico City to life. The story is slow and lush and filled with vivid imagery than ensure you get swept into Maite and Elvis’ lives. Music plays a large part in the book with both main characters being avid listeners and I would highly recommend listening to the playlist Moreno-Garcia made whilst reading. It seriously adds to the atmosphere of the story and, as someone who usually struggles to listen to music whilst reading, only added to my reading experience. She mentions at the end of the book that, although this story is fiction, some of the events are based on real life which certainly added to the realness of the story.
The mystery of Velvet was the Night is just *chefs kiss.* Having buddy read this with Susan we threw out our usual crazy guesses, but the more we read, the more we could see where the story was going. There are a few plot twists, and I will admit to guessing most of them, but instead of it being annoyingly obvious, it’s down to Moreno-Garcia’s amazing writing that we see all the pieces being brought together, helped by the two interchanging perspectives. She gives us all the information we need to guess the outcome, but it still shocked me when it happened.
Once again, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is showing her skill as a writer. Everything in this book from the characters to the setting was effortlessly brought to life & I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next.