Untamed Shore

In the past four years, Silvia Moreno-Garcia has become one of my favorite authors. She has quite a few books already, and I’m still working my through her catalogue. One of the three novels left on my list was Untamed Shore, her noir thriller from early 2020. Set against a 1970s summer in Mexico, a young woman must decide who she trusts and wants to align herself with when a tourist family is caught in the middle of unexpected crimes.


Viridiana is 18 years old and one of only two translators in Baja California, Mexico. She begins working for an American family, acting as a transcriber for the patriarch as he writes a novel; his wife and brother-in-law are also in town with him. Things seem to be going well at first: Viridiana gets along with the three Americans, the pay is good, and she’s happy to be staying with them instead of her critical mother. But just as a tentative romance starts to form, a deadly crime will put Viridiana in the center of an increasingly mendacious family.


When Untamed Shore starts, 18-year-old Viridiana is the kind of character many can relate to: smart but naive and a bit directionless. She’s a talented translator and gets a summer job working for an American family, consisting of a man (writing his debut novel) and his much younger wife and her brother. Viridiana moves in with Ambrose, Daisy, and Greg so she can work the late hours Ambrose requires. Even this early on, I worried about Viridiana and how things would unfold while she lived with these wealthy tourists.

Rather quickly, Greg starts signaling his interest in Viridiana, and she’s swept away by his looks and charm. He promises to take her to Paris, and she sees him as a dashing ticket out of this dead-end town. When he pressures her for more physical intimacy than she’s ready for, will Viridiana stand her ground or give in?

That’s just the first of many questions she’ll have to ask herself over the course of this summer. Despite a relaxed start, Untamed Shore soon takes a hard turn into something altogether more chilling: one of the three Americans dies, and Viridiana is caught up in their growing web of lies and deceit. Can she trust anyone in this family? What other secrets are they hiding? Where does she fit in all of this?

Viridiana’s naivety puts her into some tough positions, but she’s also changing, and not necessarily for the better. Is she as good and innocent as she at first seemed? Or is she as ruthless as these Americans? She becomes more morally gray as the novel progresses, and yet, even so, I couldn’t help but hope things would work out well in the end.

Despite its gentle start, Untamed Shore evolves into a twisting and thrilling ride. With its caste of ambiguous characters and a balance between seedy romance and potential murder, it’s a suspenseful noir worth reading.

Final Thoughts

Untamed Shore is an absorbing novel that grows more thrilling until its climatic end. It’s moody and the characters are morally gray, but it’s also entertaining and thoughtful. I enjoyed the audiobook and will be adding a physical copy to my collection. But should I get the original hardcover, the paperback, or the upcoming reprinting out this September? Decisions, decisions…

At this point, I only have two more Silvia Moreno-Garcia novels to catch up on: Signal to Noise and Certain Dark Things. Both are on my shelf and waiting for me now. But first, I have an ARC of her upcoming book, Silver Nitrate, due out this July. Stay tuned for my reviews of all three novels later this year! After those, I’ll get started on her short stories and novellas.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy Untamed Shore here – it’s available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Audiobook NarratorMaria Liatis
GenreNoir; Suspense
Audio Length8 hours
Format I ReadAudiobook
Original Publication DateFebruary 11, 2020

Official Summary

Baja California, 1979: Viridiana spends her days under the harsh sun, watching the fishermen pulling in their nets and the dead sharks piled beside the seashore. Her head is filled with dreams of romance, travel, and a future beyond this drab town where her only option is to marry and have children.

When a wealthy American writer arrives with his wife and brother-in-law, Viridiana jumps at the offer of a job as his assistant, and she’s soon entangled in the glamorous foreigners’ lives. They offer excitement, and perhaps an escape from her humdrum existence. When one of them dies, Viridiana, eager to protect her new friends, lies—but soon enough, someone’s asking questions. It’s not long before Viridiana has questions of her own about the identities of her new acquaintances.

Sharks may be dangerous, but there are worse predators nearby, ready to devour a naïve young woman unwittingly entangled in a net of deceit.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Untamed Shore
US Paperback, February 2021
Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Untamed Shore - UK 2023
UK Hardcover, February 2023
Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Untamed Shore - US 2023
US Paperback Reprinting, September 2023

About the Author

Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Credit Martin Dee 2023

Credit: Martin Dee

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow (Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, Ignyte Award), Mexican Gothic (Locus Award, British Fantasy Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, Aurora Award, Goodreads Award), and Velvet Was the Night (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Macavity Award). She writes in a variety of genres including fantasy, horror, noir and historical.

She has edited several anthologies, including She Walks in Shadows (World Fantasy Award winner, published in the USA as Cthulhu’s Daughters). Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. Her fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.

She has an MA in Science and Technology Studies from the University of British Columbia. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

More Reviews of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Books

Velvet Was the Night

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More Books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Silver Nitrate
Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Signal to Noise
Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Certain Dark Things

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