Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
**4.5-stars rounded up**
I was sold on Silver Nitrate from the moment I read the publisher’s synopsis, which claimed it to be a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film–and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.
Ummm, color me intrigued. I had to get my hands on this.
Luckily, for me, this lived up to the claims. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I am going to now declare it my favorite Silvia Moreno-Garcia novel.
This story is set in the 1990s, in Mexico City, and follows two main characters, best friends, Montserrat and Tristan.
Montserrat is a talented sound editor, but as a female in a mostly male profession, she’s frequently overlooked. In fact, she feels practically invisible to everyone, but her best friend since childhood, Tristan, a charming soap opera star.
Having been close for decades, Montserrat and Tristan have a lot of history. They rely on one another for a lot of different things. It’s a comfortable relationship, though not without its complications.
As the story begins, Tristan has just moved into a new apartment building and he discovers, to his delight, that his new neighbor is cult horror director, Abel Urueta. Tristan can hardly believe it, Montserrat is such a huge fan of Urueta’s. Tristan can’t wait to tell her.
Tristan befriends the older man and before too long, Montserrat and Tristan are spending time in Urueta’s apartment, as friends. Over drinks he tells them about his career and more importantly, about its demise, which he blames on an unfinished film laced with the power of magic.
He weaves them a tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into a highly volatile silver nitrate stock, never finished. He asks them to help him shoot the missing scene. Urueta claims once complete, his curse will be lifted.
After careful consideration, Montserrat and Tristan agree. What’s the worst that could happen?
Montserrat and Tristan discover quickly that messing with occult magic can get real messy. Montserrat feels haunted by an unknown presence, and Tristan is having encounters with the ghost of his dead ex-girlfriend.
Both friends are losing sleep, they’re on edge constantly and feel like they’re beginning to lose their grip on reality. Is it self-inflicted? Are they just feeling these things because of fear, or is something actually plaguing them?
As the danger grows, Montserrat and Tristan begin digging into the truth of the old film and Urueta’s stories. It’s seems they’ve unleashed something, but how can they stop it?
You better buckle up, because things get strange, things get wild, but boy, oh boy, was it fun. I thought this was fantastic. Moreno-Garcia truly brought the atmosphere, great characters, as well as captivating and original premise!
Silver Nitrate is a slow burn, with a subtle tone that builds intensity throughout. I thought this was beautifully-crafted and the rich quality of the writing can’t be denied.
The whole premise was just so interesting. I really enjoyed how it unfolded, with Tristan befriending Urueta and him sort of bringing Montserrat and Tristan in on his private struggle, the idea of the curse.
I felt Montserrat and Tristan were at the perfect place in their lives to be swept along on this journey with Urueta as well. The background work for these characters was a perfect match for the way the story progresses.
They were both sort of at a crossroads, where they needed a shake up. Urueta offered something intriguing and spurred on by each other’s interest, they both went along with it, regardless of any hesitations they may have had individually.
I also enjoyed how quickly after helping Urueta that stuff began to get spooky for them. The things happening, let’s call them the hauntings, were sort of quiet too.
It wasn’t all in your face, gory or shocking, just slightly subtle things that could have been imagination, just as easily as a true haunting, but it definitely lent a sense of dread to the narrative.
My favorite part of this book though was the character work. Both Montserrat and Tristan were so well fleshed out. I found their entire lives interesting, from their careers, to their families, to their past relationships.
I also loved watching their relationship grow and change throughout the story. The insight into how they were feeling about each other, it was complicated and it made me a bit emo. As the danger increased, they began to see each other in a new light; particularly Tristan in regards to Montserrat.
Overall, I thought this was such a well-rounded and well-written story. It’s memorable in its character work and uniqueness. I will be thinking about this one for a while.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a slow burn, historical-feeling Horror story, with equally great characters and plot. I think a lot of Readers will enjoy this one.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was a highly anticipated release for me and it did not disappoint!
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