The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
Pub. Date: September 1, 2015
Source: ARC + finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Putnam!)
Summary: When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and 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, Charlie finds herself entangled in a 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 bring healing. 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’ve imagined.
Genre: Mystery, a hint of the paranormal, Southern Gothic
I spot the fence first, its black metal pickets flashing through the trees. The winding road suddenly straightens, and there before me, between two massive stone pillars, are the gates of Evangeline.
Charlie once had it all: a wonderful husband, a little boy she adored, a glamorous job writing for a women’s magazine (okay, maybe not so glamorous) – but then tragedy struck. Now she’s grieving the all-too-soon and completely unexpected death of her child while her husband (now ex-husband) begins a new family with his new wife. And her journalist position? The magazine has recently been purchased and the staff have all been given a heads up that very few of them will be kept on with the new owners.
So when she gets an e-mail from an old boss at a pulpy crime magazine, Charlie wastes no time in weighing her options – or, rather, she wouldn’t if she had any options. The project she’s pitched, writing a book about a thirty-year-old cold case, sends her down South to the Louisiana bayou and into the gilded gates of the famed Evangeline estate.
Thirty years ago the youngest Deveau child, Gabriel, simply vanished. His bedroom door was locked just like it had been when the family went to sleep, no windows were broken into, not even a bark from the family’s dog. Naturally the family (and staff) all had seemingly airtight alibis: the two socialite daughters were celebrating their sweet sixteen with a big bash, the parents had been away, the eldest son had been with a friend. With no evidence (and at a time before DNA testing) the police had nothing to go on. Now, thirty years later, the twins (now in their forties but with their former It Girl mentality ever-present) want an exclusive tell-all to be published…and that’s where Charlie comes in. Little do the Deveaus know, however, is that since accepting the position Charlie has been experiencing rather odd dreams. Dreams of a little boy on a boat, a little boy crying out for Charlie’s help.
It’s a little odd to me that The Gates of Evangeline is slated to be a trilogy – typically mysteries like this are wrapped up within one book and this one was, so I’m not sure what to expect from the other two books. That said, I’m VERY intrigued! Meeting Charlie, I didn’t quite know what I was getting into – especially once her prophetic (? psychic?) dreams began occurring. There’s a very, very fine line when it comes to books like this where a supernatural or paranormal element is present while still being firmly rooted in reality. I’ve found that the story could either come off as campy and hokey or, in a skilled author’s hands, believable. I’m pleased to say this novel falls into the latter category (though I’ll admit I was a little eye-rolly at the end.)
The Deveau family was the real star of the show, from the twins to elder brother Andre (who’s hiding some interesting secrets of his own) to the mother and her severely declining health – both physical and mental. The Deveau patriarch passed on and as Charlie digs into his real persona, not the one shown in the tabloids, she comes to realize this family is not at all what she had assumed. Super vague I know, but I don’t want to spoil this one for anybody! Who wouldn’t want to uncover the dirt on celebrities, even fictional ones??
While the mystery element kept me turning the pages at a blinding pace, I could have done without the romance. Gabriel’s disappearance was more than enough to hold my interest and the romance that springs between Charlie and the gardener felt hurried and tacked on. Love story aside, however, I was thoroughly enchanted by The Gates of Evangeline. This Southern Gothic mystery reads like a true crime novel and had me guessing until the very end (and I feel I owe an apology to certain completely innocent characters I had initially pegged as being guilty!) Though the ending left me wanting – it’s a little too sitcomy for my tastes, especially with the rest of the novel being somewhat gritty – I enjoyed this one immensely and eagerly await the next installment!