Publisher: Clarion Books.
Hardcover, 329 pages.
Release date: May 14th 2013.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.
Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.
“Sometimes the dead don't stay where you put them.” - Dianne K. Salerni, The Caged Graves.
Seventeen-year-old Verity Boone returns to her hometown of Catawissa, Pennsylvania after a long absence in order to reconnect with a father she no longer knows, and marry a man she’s never met. Verity’s mother died when she was two and since then she’s lived with her aunt. She knows that leaving her old, comfortable life behind won’t be easy; but she’s excited to reconnect with her father, and to meet the man she’s agreed to marry. However, when Verity meets her future husband, Nathanial McClure, things don’t exactly go to plan. For one thing, Nate’s not as romantic as his letters suggest. He seems awkward; unsure of himself – and of Verity. Nate and Verity’s unofficial-first-date turns disastrous when their walk leads them to the graveyard where Verity’s mother is buried. This guy knows how to do romance, huh? However, there’s worse to come when Verity insists on seeing her mother’s grave and discovers that not only does her grave, along with one other lie outside the unconsecrated ground of the graveyard, it is also encased in an iron cage. Nate can’t offer an explanation as to why this is, and so Verity, determined to find out the truth embarks on a journey of discovery that stirs up the superstitions and suspicions of the Catawissa townsfolk.
Dianne K. Salerni really knows how to weave a story; The Caged Graves is a multi-layered, plot-twist filled mystery that kept me guessing from start to finish. I had initially thought that this book was paranormal; I think I read an article about caged graves at one point where the focus was on vampires – but while there are no vampires here, this book is haunting and gothic nonetheless, with plenty of shivers-down-the-spine scenes if you dare read it late at night. It also helps that while Salerni’s characters are fictional, the graves in this book are very real. Salerni was inspired to read this book after stumbling upon a pair of real caged graves in Catawissa, the mystery of which remains unsolved to this day. The inclusion of a real life mystery here just added to the fun for me.
However, Catawissa life is not so much fun for Verity. Along with solving the mystery of the caged graves, Verity also has to deal with matters of the heart, and a whole bunch of Catawissa ladies who wanted Nate for themselves, including her cousin, who hates Verity on sight. Rather than falling head over heels for Nate, as she thought she would, Verity finds herself father more taken with the doctor’s apprentice, Hadley. Unlike, Nate, who Verity suspects may only be interested in the land he will inherit on his marriage to her, Hadley is worldly and confident, and might just sweep Verity right from under Nate’s feet. The romance in The Caged Graves is sweet and coming-of-age, and lends to the charm of he book while also providing a welcome contrast to the dark mystery surrounding Verity’s mother’s death.
A hidden corner of history coupled with romance and a mystery that kept me hooked, The Caged Graves is the perfect tale to read by the fireside on a cold winter’s night. I enjoyed this one and will definitely be checking out We Hear the Dead, also by Salerni, which deals with the spooky world of spiritualism and séances, subjects I just love to read about.
Check back on Wednesday when Dianne K. Salerni will be along to talk about her inspiration and research for The Caged Graves.