Review—The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

In The Gates of Evangeline, Charlotte Cates puts her life back together after a divorce that left her a single mother, and after an unexpected tragedy that leaves her alone, apart from her aging grandmother that lives in an assisted living facility.

To get her mind off of what is left of her life, and away from a job she no longer enjoys at all, Charlotte takes a job investigating the mysterious disappearance of Gabriel Deveau, the youngest son of a rich Louisiana family.

I immediately recognized the similarities between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and this novel. But where Larsson created gruff characters that were, for some people, unreachable, Charlotte Cates was immediately accessible to me for a variety of reasons.

gates of evangelineShe knows what life is like as a single mother. She knows what it is to own her own feelings and sexuality, and she is not afraid to admit when she wants or is not sure of something. As she works her way through the grieving process after she loses her son, she recognizes that her time as a mother to Keegan will always define her—but that she has to find a way to define herself again.

Her struggle to do this runs through the background of her investigation of the Deveau family, as do the scarily accurate dreams she began to have after her son’s death. She doubts their truth at first, but then begins to realize there is a reason she has the dreams, and allows them to guide her to the ability to help others.

The story of the investigation—and remote-ish setting—is what reminded me so much of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Charlie is a successful journalist whose magazine has been bought by an outside agency, and her job is in jeopardy. So she responds to an old friend who has a job opportunity for her. She leaves home and stays in a cottage, is brought mementos of the Deveau family to sift through (including cryptic verses from the Bible), writes a book about the storied family, and eventually solves the biggest mystery to ever rock Chicory, Louisiana.

There are other twists that make this novel very unlike the Dragon Tattoo books, including the female main character, the cast of characters, the unraveled mystery, and Charlie’s distinctive voice and vivid, prophetic dreams. Another aspect that differed entirely was Charlie’s grieving process and how much I connected with that. As a mother, I felt everything Charlie did as she grieved her loss. When, toward the end, she finally finds some sense of closure, I teared up as I reacted with her. All of these aspects of The Gates of Evangeline make it an excellent mystery and novel. I was hooked throughout reading, and I almost wish there was a series of Charlie Cates books to read—I’d love to see her solve more mysteries.

Jacket Copy:

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children in danger, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent. They are warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams, asking for her help, she finds herself entangled in a world-famous thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance with the estate’s landscape architect—the warm and handsome Noah Palmer—begin to heal her grief-stricken heart. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.

A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down.

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