Throwback Thursdays. Flashback Fridays. Way Back Wednesdays.
If you are active on any social media, it is likely you are familiar with the popular trend of revisiting or recreating elements of the past.
Revisiting our past can provide comfort and warmth, especially when the present seems so uncertain. We tend to romanticize history by focusing on the exciting elements like fashion and music. Why? Because it is vastly easier than reliving the pain of past injustices. Although they can be difficult to remember, these injustices serve as reminders of mistakes we cannot afford to repeat.
For historical-fiction authors, I imagine it would be challenging to reconcile the harshness of history with the notable aspects of that time while simultaneously fleshing out characters and crafting a riveting plot. Despite these challenges, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the New York Times bestselling author of “Mexican Gothic,” achieves this effortlessly in her latest novel, “Velvet Was the Night.”
From the very first page, Moreno-Garcia expertly transports us back to 1970s Mexico City. This is where we first meet Elvis, a young member of the Hawks, a covert group with ties to the government. Their purpose? To silence anti-government students and activists by any means necessary.
Elvis doesn’t enjoy using violence to get the job done; however, he is also ambitious and envies his boss, El Mago, who is well-off and powerful.
When a job doesn’t go as expected, Elvis is swiftly promoted and tasked with finding a girl named Leonora who may have incriminating photos in her possession. This new assignment brings Elvis one step closer to our other protagonist, Maite, a young woman with dreams and aspirations of her own, as well as a few secrets.
At first glance, Maite appears to be an unimposing and lackluster protagonist. She is overly critical of herself and painfully aware of her perceived shortcomings: her safe but boring job as a legal secretary, her nonexistent love life and her shabby apartment.
Maite longs for more excitement in her life. In the meantime, she distracts herself with her eclectic record collection, her favorite romance comics and the trinkets she pockets from her neighbors’ apartments when they need a favor. This is how she meets Leonora, her beautiful neighbor who seems to have it all: beauty, money and several suitors vying for her attention.
When Leonora mysteriously goes missing, Maite sets out to find her and unknowingly puts herself in danger. Both of our protagonists speak to various people in Leonora’s inner circle and follow all leads hoping to find her.
Each step brings Elvis and Maite closer to one another until their paths cross in an unforgettable and action-packed ending.
This is the first novel by Moreno-Garcia that I have read, but it certainly will not be the last. If you end up liking “Velvet Was the Night,” check out a copy of her previous novel, “Mexican Gothic,” at your local library.