There’s always that sense of excitement when Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a new book coming out. In part, it’s because you know you’re in for something that has her signature style, but will not be retreading on territory covered in previous books. For the most part.
Silver Nitrate is a marvelous supernatural book set in Mexico in the 80s, focusing on their film and television industry. We follow Montserrat, an audio editor for a local film house, and Tristan, a disgraced telenovela star who’s scarred up face has him doing voiceover work instead of being the leading man he was. Their shared love of campy horror flicks and a chance encounter with a retired local horror director, Abel, leads them down a dark path of helping him complete one of his lost films that’s kept on rare (and volatile) silver nitrate stock.
Of course, Abel was working on the film with a former Nazi occultist who’d embedded spells in the film, and his untimely death left the spell chain broken, which Abel felt led to the end of his career and a string of bad luck. When Montserrat and Tristan promise to help finish by providing voiceover for the film and help complete the spells, their luck changes for a brief period before, well… as one of Abel’s former friends Jose puts it, they set off a magical nuclear bomb and played right into that Nazi’s hands of looking for immortality.
There’s a lot of love put into this novel, with a focus on old horror flicks and Mexico’s film scene and tons of occult stuff. Lots of research went into making sure everything felt right, and it shows. Much like Velvet Was the Night, this book is dripping with style, tension and is a joy to read. I found myself not reading too much at a time for the explicit purpose of not wanting to finish it too quickly, which is always a good sign.
Moreno-Garcia has a rare talent for making immensely readable books that still pack deep thematic elements for those willing to look beyond the well-crafted plots. Her books tend to have a strong focus on setting and effortlessly give you a feel for where it’s taking place, along with the characters. You may not get lost in her prose or references, but these books are always grounded and a great read.
I’ll always recommend her work strongly, this book included.