This dark historical fiction works very well on a number of levels. First, the story is complex. The author deftly handles flashbacks and plot structure with ease. You have different threads involving Suzanne, as a child with a deranged mother, as a teen in a girls’ boarding school, and then as a young adult working a dead end job on Coney Island. Intertwined these settings are paranormal incidents, a rash of serial murders, and an unidentifiable evil lurking ever present just out of view. The amusement park setting also adds a seedy creepiness with a sense of unpredictability. As a result, the novel was an absorbing and thrilling read.
I thought the characters were nicely drawn and believable. The early 20th century depiction of Coney Island and New York City seemed authentic. The time period, with its social mores and overt expression of racism, were well depicted.
The one issue that I have with the novel is the ending. I certainly did not see the ending coming. It certainly is a shocker, but part of the reason it is such a stunner is that the reader is tricked by a sleight of hand. I actually felt manipulated. I will not disclose anything more for fear of spoiling the work for potential readers. I really liked all aspects of the story except the conclusion. I would not hesitate to recommend Hell Gate. Just be prepared to be let down with the way the author tries to bring the story to a close.