A Review of “Velvet Was the Night” by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Full Disclosure I was provided a NetGalley copy of this book, however, have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Velvet Was the Night is scheduled for an August 17, 2021 release.

Velvet Was the Night by [Silvia Moreno-Garcia]

When dreams and reality collide

Maite Jaramillo is a mousy woman living vicariously through the heroines in her romance periodicals. A bit of a “Walter Mitty” type, she has been known to spin tales of romance and intrigue to the other women in her secretary pool at work. When Maite finds herself approached by her neighbor Leonora to watch her cat for the weekend, she sees this as an opportunity to peek into the life of the beautiful and mysterious art student. But when the days, turn into weeks Maite joins with Leonora’s colleagues to find her before it’s too late. For the woman that once only dreamed of a life of action and mystery, she now finds herself deeply involved with radicals, dodging hitmen and Russians in a race to find Leonora before the bad guys do.

Set in the summer of 1971, Mexico City is undergoing a time of unrest; where radical students stage protests and government-funded teams of strong-armed thugs seek to quash their spirit in addition to any media presence. Elvis is one of those thugs. As part of El Mago’s “Hawks” Elvis and his counterparts are tasked to locate and retrieve a potentially volatile series of photos from the young art student Leonora. But with the team engaging in a series of stakeouts that all bring them back to following the nondescript secretary, Elvis cannot help but wonder how this person fits into the big picture or why he feels so drawn to her.

Velvet Was the Night” is the first book I have read by author Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Being a fan of the noir genre, I figured I would give it a try, however, not being familiar with her style of writing, it took me quite a long time to really start to get interested and invested in the characters.  That is not to say that this was a bad story at all, but rather a ‘slow burn’ of a narrative that I started reading in the car line after school while waiting to pick up my daughter and finished by sitting up into the late hours of the evening to see what would happen next.

Maite’s character, on the surface, seemed shallow but as the story progresses she realizes that she is a better person than the box her overbearing mother has placed her into. Elvis, on the other hand, while technically one of the “bad guys” was still probably one of my favorite characters. It was interesting to watch his transformation from a “star-struck” street thug learning a new word daily in an effort to rise to the level of his mentor El Mago, to a person who has faced some hard shocking truths but has come out the other end stronger for it. How these two ever were even in the same orbit so to speak is an entirely different story which Moreno-Garcia has done well to weave. If you are a fan of crime fiction, historical fiction, noir, or gritty action novels I would recommend Velvet Was the Night.

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