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.
Another day, another genre of book that I don’t usually read. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a noir, pulp fiction type book before. But this was Silvia Moreno-Garcia and I couldn’t resist getting a review copy.
For almost a third of the book, I was bored and annoyed with the characters and just couldn’t see what was the point of everything that was happening. But then, I will not say it got terribly interesting, but I got used to the writing style and decided to quickly finish the book. The author captures the atmosphere of the times very well – the authoritarianism of the political leaders and the police; the dirty work by gangsters; the students who are fed up with the messed up situation and have become activists, but are themselves a target now; and a young woman who doesn’t care about any of this happening around her because she is too busy thinking about her drab and boring life. The author is really good at showing the murky reality of Mexico during different times in history through each of her books, and this was no exception. The story was also fast paced with quite a bit of action and suspense, with one twist towards the end that I never saw coming.
Elvis was an interesting character, trying to find the place where he can finally belong to and maybe make a name for himself. He may have been working for a gangster, but there was a naïveté about him that made him a sympathetic character. Maite on the other hand completely frustrated me – on one hand because I was annoyed by her fixation on good looking guys and making tall tales about everything to feel like something was going on in her life; on the other hand, there were some characteristics of her life that hit too close to me and I didn’t want a reality check. But I liked how both of their storylines followed each other and intersected and diverged, but never actually met. The only other character whom we get to know somewhat is Ruben but he was a typical young guy who romanticized revolution and none of his actions truly surprised me. Elvis’s teammates were also stereotypical sidekicks and didn’t leave much of an impression.
To conclude, this was a quick read, probably as expected from pulp fiction. It was also engaging enough but I don’t think it’s something I’ll remember after a while. I could have liked it more but the ending (which was quite unexpected) just felt like the whole point of the book was a waste and that left me dissatisfied. But it’s just my opinion. If 1970s Mexico at a time of student protests and government overreach, and a noir story about two completely different people whose paths collide in a twist of fate feels like something that’ll interest you, go for it.
PS: Thank you to Netgalley and Del Ray for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.