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The Prisoner of Hell Gate    by Dana I. Wolff order for
Prisoner of Hell Gate
by Dana I. Wolff
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2016 (2016)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Lovers of spooky novels, this is for you. Karalee and three college friends and their equally young professor, all students in public health, decide to visit North Brother Island, former home of Riverside Hospital, where typhoid patients were brought to live. The most famous resident was Typhoid Mary, and it was Karalee's great grandfather, George Soper, who tracked her down and identified her as a carrier.

The group wanders among the neglected ruins amid a tangle of undergrowth, yet they find signs of life - an ax jutting out of a tree stump, a vegetable garden. They meet a mysterious hermit woman, who fixes them a meal. Since it has gotten late, they stay the night, but no sleep comes because of screams of terror from the ghosts of the General Slocum shipwreck.

The book alternates chapters by Mary, the hermit, and Karalee. Karalee's story, while interesting, doesn't match Mary's. She is the one who gives us an insight as to how a very poor person who was just trying to make a living could infect people without knowing it. She is also the one who gives us the details of the tragic shipwreck. This is a wonderful, but chilling way to be taken back in history.

Just as interesting are the Sewer Rats, as they call themselves and are described by Karalee. Their personalities as individuals and how they interact as a group caught in an increasingly grisly situation make for suspenseful reading. This novel, a first for the author, is really well-written and will keep you turning the pages.

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