Silvia Moreno-Garcia is having a moment. Since the release of her breakout Mexican Gothic she has not only turned out a couple of very different books that were just as good if not better (Velvet is the Night and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau) but has seen her back catalogue being re-released (including The Beautiful Ones and Certain Dark Things). While readers wait for her 2023 release, they are treated to Untamed Shore, a noir thriller set in Baja California in the late 1970s.
Untamed Shore opens with a beach covered in dead sharks, shark fishing being one of the remaining industries in a coastal area that is struggling to attract tourists. Viridiana, who can speak four languages works in the informal tourist industry but is looking for a way out. And so she eagerly agrees to take a job as a translator and general assistant to an aging American writer who has come to town with his younger wife and her brother. But soon the writer is dead and Viridiana finds herself having to navigate a completely different world, one in which the sharks are more than just metaphoric.
Viridiana is a classic Moreno-Garcia heroine – a young woman who starts as a little naïve but finds an inner strength and resilience (Noemi in Mexican Gothic or Carlotta in the Daughter of Doctor Moreau). In the same way that Maite, her protagonist in Velvet was the Night, takes her cues from romance magazine, Viridiana dreams in black and white. She forms part of her understanding of the world and of romance from classic movies. But reality forces her to see past that and forces her make her own way in the world rather than being trapped in a fictionally-informed version of reality.
Moreno-Garcia also once again manages to effectively capture a time and place. In this case a smallish village on the wild Baja California coast in the late 1970s. Moreno-Garcia brings the dry coastal landscape and its inhabitants vividly to life. Capturing both the openness of the landscape and the stultifying closeness of the small community.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia continually demonstrates her ability to deliver a story in any register and style. She has done vampires, classic science fiction, historical drama, fantasy and gothic. Untamed Shore is her noir thriller, drawing on the black and white noir and romance films of the 50s and 60s but delivering something contemporary out of it with a plucky, resourceful heroine at its centre.