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August 17, 2021

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia ~ a Review

by MK French

In 1970's Mexico City, Maite is a secretary avoiding the humdrum of the everyday by reading Secret Romance. When her next-door neighbor Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite starts looking for her among the dissidents and radicals of the city. In the meantime, Elvis is an eccentric criminal longing to escape his life and is also searching for Leonora. As he does, he is drawn to Maite and feels a connection in their mutual love of music. The truth behind Leonora's disappearance, however, is far more dangerous than they thought it would be.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Velvet Was the Night
August 2021; Del Rey; 978-0593356821
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); historical thriller

We open with a bang-- literally. Elvis is an enforcer at a protest going belly up quickly, and there were already hints of dissatisfaction before Leonora disappears. Maite is in love with the idea of being in love and is forgettable even in her own family. They're both perfectly ordinary in their different ways, caught up in the rising panic of the city. Anyone questioning the government could be called a radical or a communist, and students and artists are the most heavily monitored due to their tendency to question the status quo. On top of that, different intelligence agencies vie for control of information, and apparently, Leonora had negatives for photos that could implicate men of the intelligence community.

Switching between Elvis's and Maite's POVs, we see different parts of Mexico City and the unrest building. Maite's naivete because of her focus on romance comic books and stagnation in life means the reader is also introduced to the chaos as she is. We know how innocent her interest is, though the players at large don't. It's easy to get swept up by paranoia for them, and that has very deadly consequences. Velcet Was the Night is very much a noir thriller with social commentary and the core need for connection to others. The time period was fraught with dangers, as the afterword explains, and I feel that it was accurately portrayed here. Silvia Moreno Garcia is a brilliant author and is able to make just about everyone feel real and empathetic to an extent, even the horrible characters you'd never like in real life.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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