Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: July 18th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Adult, Mystery Thriller, Fantasy, Historical, Magical Realism

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film–and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.

Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.

Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.

Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse . . . but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.

As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.

First Line:

An engorged, yellow moon painted the sky a sickly amber hue, illuminating a solitary figure.

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Montserrat is a sound editor trying to make it in a highly competitive but male-only market in Mexico City. Her best friend, Tristan, is a former telenovela star trying to break into the business after being blackballed by his ex-girlfriend’s father, who blames him for her death. Tristan is thrilled when he discovers that his new neighbor is cult horror director Abel Urueta. Montserrat is slightly more reserved, but her interest is piqued when Abel tells a tale about a former Nazi occultist, Ewers, using silver nitrate film reels to imbue them with magic. But Ewers died before the film was finished, and Abel believes that caused him to be cursed. But, after agreeing to do so, Tristan starts seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend, and a dark presence haunts Monserrat. With cultists on their heels, Tristan and Monserrat must unravel the movie’s mystery and why it is so important to those people.

I am not a modern-day horror movie fan. I am not a fan of gore and blood. I am a fan of the type of horror movie that was made in the ’50s and ’60s. That is why I decided to wish on this book on Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine’s NetGalley page. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the wish to be granted and was very surprised when it was. While it took me a while to get to read the book (thank you, backlog), once I did read it, I was immersed and very glad that I did. Silver Nitrate was a great book.

Silver Nitrate is a medium-paced book that starts slowly. At first, I was a little irritated with how slow the book was. But, as I got into the book and everything started unraveling, I appreciated the slow start. Without that slow start, I wouldn’t have known how Tristan’s background would affect him later in the book and how Momo girl bossed everything.

The main storyline of Silver Nitrate is centered around Momo, Tristan, the film, and the Nazi occultist. It was a meandering and sometimes infuriating storyline that was well-written. This storyline is like good wine; it must be read slowly and savored. If you read too fast, you will run into the problem of missing some essential information. Trust me; this book is worth reading slowly.

I like Momo. She was a great friend (well, almost too good, Tristan did walk all over her at the beginning of the book), a good sister, and she was a good employee. I felt terrible that she was in such a challenging profession. I never considered a sound editor a male-dominated profession in the ’90s. It didn’t cross my mind, and by the middle of the book, I was very mad for her. My other favorite thing about Momo is that once she committed to something, she committed. She started reading Ewer’s book to see if there were any clues about what was happening. I won’t get much more into it, but I was surprised at what she learned.

I hate to admit this, but Tristan annoyed me at first. He was childlike in his actions and mannerisms. I couldn’t understand why Momo even kept him around as a friend. But, as the book went on and the author peeled back Tristan’s layers (and there were many), my annoyance gave way to understanding and pity. His character growth during this book was immense, and I loved his epiphany towards the end of the book. I wanted to smack him and say, “Duh, you idiot.

Even though he was dead, Ewers was a considerable presence in this book. I had read about Nazi occultists in the past, so I did understand what the author was writing about. But, she got into depth with his character. I was fascinated by everything that the author had written about him in the book. In the author’s note, she did explain that this character was a mishmash of a multitude of occultists, but the namesake was from a Nazi sympathizer who traveled to Mexico.

The book’s main secondary characters (Abel, Clarimonde, Ava, and Jose) were prevalent. They played critical roles in the film (both past and present). I won’t get into how they were involved with Ewers, but it was surprising when everything was revealed. And honestly, the only one I felt bad for out of the four was Abel. He had zero clue what was going on behind the scenes.

The horror angle of the book was very well written. This book wasn’t a gory, blood-everywhere horror. Instead, it was more of a psychological horror. It started with the uneasiness that Momo and Tristan felt when Abel explained what he wanted to do, and it just expanded throughout the book. I loved it.

The paranormal angle of the book was just as well written. I liked that it started gradually (Tristan seeing his dead ex, Abel having a premonition) and then started snowballing. The pinnacle was the scene toward the end of the book, where Momo did what she did.

I also was thrilled to learn about silver nitrate. I had never heard about it before this book, and I did read up on it. In a weird coincidence, my husband listened to a podcast detailing silver nitrate and films (like the book). Learning about silver nitrate was fascinating, frightening, and creepy (the occult angle).

The end of Silver Nitrate was exciting but not what I was expecting. While the author wrapped up the film/Ewer storyline, I wondered what would happen to Momo and Tristan. I wasn’t expecting the turn it took. But looking back, I did see that storyline turning in that direction.

I would recommend Silver Nitrate to anyone over 16. There is language, violence, and no sexual situations.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Silver Nitrate, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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