In Piñata, the intense and vivid paranormal thriller by Leopoldo Gout (Monarca, with Eva Aridjis; Genius), the year is 2027. Carmen Sánchez has arrived in Tulancingo, a small town two hours outside Mexico City, with her daughters, 16-year-old Izel and 11-year-old Luna. Born in Mexico, single mother Carmen hasn't been back to her birth country in years and her daughters have never been there. She's overseeing the renovation of an ancient abbey into a fancy hotel. She couldn't leave the girls at home with her overworked mother, so they've come along for the summer.

Being a woman boss--who looks like a local but clearly isn't--proves challenging, but Carmen finds allies in the abbey's onsite representative, Father Verón, and physicist-turned-artisan Quauhtli. Despite their support, they can't protect her when a suspicious accident puts Carmen's job in jeopardy. She's not fired, but she's to be replaced by another colleague--male and white. By the time the family returns to New York, Luna, whose usually sunny personality was already being overshadowed by what Carmen thought was just adolescent moodiness, has changed completely. She's gone sullen and secretive, and Carmen hears inexplicable noises in Luna's locked room. And then Carmen's mother falls down the stairs and almost dies, and Luna swears she heard nothing. Just what did the Sanchez women bring back?

While Gout's initial exposition tends to meander and repeat, as soon as the otherworldly realms are fully unleashed, the cinematics take over in fast-action, haunting, corpse-dropping splendor. And you thought those colorful piñatas were just for kids! --Terry Hong, BookDragon

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