The Gates of Evangeline is the addictive first book in a fantastic new crime series by Hester Young. Perfect for fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn, this book will have you guessing until the very end.
We asked Hester to introduce her new protagonist, Charlie Cates, and tell us a bit about her inspiration for the book.
Over to Hester:
“I’ve always enjoyed female characters who, for better or for worse, actively shape their own fate. Don’t give me a heroine who finds herself paralyzed by fear — at least let her try to smash the bad guy in the head with a lamp. The fictional women I want to spend my time with may not be entirely wholesome rays of sunshine, but they are resourceful, courageous, clever. They are individuals and not accessories.
I suppose any novel I wrote was bound to feature a “strong” woman — a writer has to make it through a whole book with her protagonist, after all — but Charlie Cates is not a character I consciously created to that end. When I first devised this recently bereaved mother who begins experiencing premonitory dreams of endangered children, I was thinking only of my grandmother.
Like Charlie, my grandmother was a college-educated working mother who spent the majority of her twenties in vibrant New York City. Unlike my protagonist, she chose to marry a farmer from rural Long Island. My grandparents had three children together. Bobby, their second, was just four years old when he died.
Bobby did not die of a lingering illness. His death was sudden and accidental: a fatal fall from a window when left in the care of his grandparents. More disturbing still, my grandmother had foreseen his death, countless times, in a recurring nightmare. Over and over, she had dreamed of an open window, of Bobby’s fall, and yet in the end she couldn’t stop it.
When I was young, there was no trace of Bobby in my grandparents’ home but for a small photograph my grandmother kept in a room her husband never entered. As a child, I often wondered about the little boy in the picture; as an adult, I came to wonder more about my grandmother herself and how she’d carried on with her life in the face of such a loss.
We read — and write — fiction for the vicarious experiences it allows, experiences that permit us to fulfill impossible dreams or to confront our worst fears. In the end, we seek understanding. I suppose my protagonist was born from that desire to understand.
Charlie Cates begins her journey having lost the thing she loves most: her four-year-old son. A series of premonitory dreams about children, though terrifying, also offer her a newfound purpose. Within her haunting visions lies the chance to help other desperate families.
Like my grandmother, Charlie has Irish-Catholic roots but feels skeptical about the existence of God. Her own abilities and experiences challenge her beliefs about what is real and possible. Ultimately, however, Charlie has become a character quite independent of my grandmother. She is a modern woman with modern problems, a divorcee whose troubled upbringing has hampered her intimate relationships, a professional woman whose drive and ambition has come to eclipse her deeper needs.
There is nothing quite like a change of scenery to shake us from our old patterns, to test our mettle and offer a chance at personal reinvention. When Charlie’s dreams lead her to Evangeline, a sprawling Southern estate once the site of a famously unsolved kidnapping, she has more than just one family’s long-held secrets to contend with. She must choose who to become in the wake of her own grief.
Although I did not initially write this book with a series in mind, it became clear by the end that Charlie Cates had more to discover about both herself and her gift. As a reader, I love following characters through multiple books and witnessing their transformation on a larger scale. I’m delighted now as a writer to have a trilogy through which I can further explore Charlie and chronicle her story.”