Book reviews: Fall perfect time for good mysteries

Kim Brack/For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
"Gates of Evangeline," by Hester Young
Courtesy Photo

With these cold, crisp mornings, fall is definitely in the air, so what better time to curl up with a couple of good mysteries?

“Gates of Evangaline,” by Hester Young, is a Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist. When grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother; they are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees — if 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 30­year­old 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 long­buried 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.

The inspiration for this story came from Young’s grandmother. She wasn’t religious and didn’t believe in spirits or ghosts until a tragic accident brought her peace in a very paranormal way. I highly recommend reading this story at the beginning of the novel. This new novel was released Sept. 1.

At a recent Books and Brews Event, representatives from all the big publishing houses gave their picks for favorite books, and one of those books garnered rave reviews. Barry Award-winning novel “The Black House,” by Peter May, is not a new book, but it is a really great read.

May serves up a densely plotted story of old secrets, revenge and redemption set against the ancient rhythms of Scotland’s misty Outer Hebrides, laying his tale against a richly detailed cultural backdrop that includes the real-life annual slaughter of hundreds of sea birds that nest on a rocky outcrop near the Isle of Lewis. It’s a factual and centuries-old occurrence that still makes outraged headlines in the British press, and it’s to May’s credit that he manages to weave it into his story with such skill it becomes an integral part of the mystery’s solution. The only disclaimer I would give is the book opens with a particularly gruesome murder scene. The rest of the book, however, is steeped in culture, deep mystery, familial ties and twists, so don’t let the first chapter scare you off.

Kim Brack is a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.

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