REVIEW: Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Once more, Silvia Moreno-Garcia reinvents herself. Silver Nitrate is an ode to classic horror films, to the darker side of cinema – and to the darker parts of twentieth century history.  As is par for the course with Moreno-Garcia’s books, Silver Nitrate too is set in Mexico. Or more precisely, in Mexico City’s film industry in the 1990s. Centred around Montserrat, a dark-skinned sound editor in her late thirties, and her friend, Tristán, a soap opera star whose time in the limelight had long since faded, this story weaves occultist tales, fugitive Nazis and the making of horror films into an unforgettable story.

Silver Nitrate When Abel Urueta, cult horror director – and Tristán’s new neighbour – recruits Montserrat and Tristán to help him complete a mysterious film, they don’t know what they’re in for. Abel Urueta is sure the unfinished project has cursed his career. He is now desperate to complete it, consequences be damned, for the slightest hope at lifting the curse he believes on himself. And so, despite tales of the volatile silver nitrate stock it has been filmed and stored on having been steeped with dark magic by a Nazi occultist, they begin work on the missing scenes…

With Silver Nitrate, Silvia Moreno-Garcia once again writes herself to the summit of a new genre. After having brought readers to the island of Doctor Moreau in her retelling of the classic and writing a brilliant noir in Untamed Shore for her last two releases, this is a straight up occult horror thriller.  Written with a great instinct for tension and pacing, Silver Nitrate draws the reader in and truly immerses them into its version of 1990s Mexico. But these books don’t just switch genre. The voice and style of writing adapts with them. And that is what makes Moreno-Garcia such an impressive author – her versatility, her ability to switch voices like a chameleon switches colour.

Silver Nitrate particularly stands out from her body of work for a Grimdark audience due to its themes and characters. Unsettling and haunting, with a villain evil both on an uncanny and a very real level – a Nazi fugitive who ended up in Mexico – and characters who are stuck in their own mindsets, making them less than morally upstanding as a rule. The characters are complex, and grow even more so over the course of the book. Montserrat stood out especially, as a woman making her way in a man’s world, while also being a more mature character – she is in her late thirties, rather than her twenties as many heroines are – and not conforming to the beauty standards dominant around her. She is pure perseverance and good at her job, determined to make herself heard, which makes her a great character to root for throughout the events of the book.

As a whole, Silver Nitrate came together as a haunting story with evocative atmosphere and Moreno-Garcia’s usual attention to detail and strong characters. The inclusion of silver nitrate itself as a core element of the story was a great way to tie together the different elements of the plot. Highly recommended.

Read Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.