Book Review

Velvet Was The Night

Velvet Was the Night

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher: Del Rey

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: profanity, gun violence, blood, violence, torture, murder

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

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.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes. 

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been an author on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and this story sounded absolutely irresistible. Even though it’s noir, which isn’t a genre I’m at all familiar with, the cover and description won me over before I ever read the first page. And I was right about it—it’s a fabulous book.

Moreno-Garcia really takes her time with this story, painting a vivid picture of Mexico City in the 1970s; the neighborhoods, the political climate, and overall society. The story is slow-paced, atmospheric, and lush, developing at a leisurely pace without ever dragging or feeling rushed. It allows a range of characters to be slowly introduced, and each of them serves a purpose, even the side characters.

The story is told from the POV of two MCs, Elvis and Maite, who actually have quite a lot in common, least of which is their moral gray-ness. Neither of them is happy with how their lives have turned out, and they want more than anything to change, but aren’t really sure how to go about that. However, their actual lives are both quite different, even if their personalities are somewhat similar. Their paths intersect when they both get involved in finding a lost woman—Elvis because his boss puts him on the job, and Maite because she’s neighbors with the woman and just wants to stop looking after her cat. 

While the story is a smooth, slow-paced read, I couldn’t put it down and read it quite quickly. I was always surprised with how things went, and there were quite a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming, although I felt incredibly proud of myself for sort-of figuring out a major reveal beforehand. Seeing the two POVs getting closer and closer to intersecting was exciting, and I loved reading this book. The way that music was interwoven through both of the POVs was intriguing, and the writing was smooth, beautiful, and carried an air of romance. I’m definitely planning to check out more of SMG’s work, and soon.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 9

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