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Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Historical fiction

Velvet Was the Night

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Quick take

A woman pursues her missing neighbor and discovers a seedy underworld in this noir set in 1970s Mexico City.

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit


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1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he watches Maite from a distance—and comes to regard her as a kindred spirit who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.

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Velvet Was the Night


June 10, 1971

He didn’t like beating people.

El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the most stupid way possible.

Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess. That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.

No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.

He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El Güero had been at him again.

El Güero was a policeman before he joined up with Elvis’s group, and that made him cocky, made him want to throw his weight around. In practice being a poli meant shit because El Mago was the egalitarian sort who didn’t care where his recruits came from—ex-cops, ex-military, porros, and juvenile delinquents were welcome as long as they worked right. But the thing was El Güero was twenty-five, getting long in the tooth, and that was making him anxious. Soon enough he’d have to move on.

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Why I love it

Velvet Was the Night is like a Russian nesting doll. The intricacies of the human heart, political unrest, sensuality, and identity exist inside each other and are revealed layer by layer in this visceral, provocative novel.

The book follows Maite, a secretary whose quiet life is upended when her mysterious neighbor, Lenora, goes missing. As Maite sets out to find the missing woman, her investigation draws her into the student activism scene of 1970s Mexico. Soon she encounters Elvis, a lonely, regretful criminal who shares her wounded heart and love of rock ‘n’ roll. As the pair come closer and closer to finding Leonora—and with killers and spies nipping at their heels—they uncover secrets more dangerous than they could have imagined.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a writer who has an infallible ear for dialogue and an artist's eye for atmosphere that envelopes the reader page after page. Set against the backdrop of a volatile Mexico City circa 1971, this noir novel of lonely people, each with their own desires, is not to be missed!

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Member ratings (3,056)

  • Connie R.

    Darien, GA

    I wasn’t familiar with the historic setting of this novel. I liked the characters and story, but I also enjoyed learning more about Mexico’s history. I spent some quality time on Google as I read.

  • Lidia C.

    Calexico, CA

    I really liked to learn about that grim time in Mexico’s history. And I loved the characters, especially Maité and how she developed and changed throughout the book. She is one of the best anti-heroes

  • Janine D.

    Sandy, UT

    Don’t go in expecting Mexican Gothic. If anything this reminded me of Twin Peaks without the supernatural elements. The characters are odd and awkward, and the story fills us with music and nostalgia.

  • Tina M.

    Springfield, MO

    WHAT A WILD RIDE! The history is fascinating, the characters are fun and this story is just spectacular!! LOVE SMG’s writing and I will continue to read anything she writes! Definitely a new favorite!

  • Amelia R.

    Paterson , NJ

    Moreno-Garcia knows how to transform her writing into different genres. This was a very well written ‘70s noir that also taught me about Mexican history. Her use of the Macguffin was perfectly noir.

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