The Caged Graves
Dianne K. Salerni
My first look at the cover of The Caged Graves, featuring a picture of a grave encased in a fancy metal cage, sent me on a two-day reading bender and I didn’t stop until I had learned the mystery behind the deaths of young Verity Boone’s mother and aunt. This is one of the most original, entertaining and suspenseful young adult books I’ve ever read. It’s a terrific mix of historical fiction, romance, mystery and suspense.
It’s 1867 and Verity Boone is seventeen. For fifteen years she has lived with her cousins in Worcester, Massachusetts. Now she’s returned to Catawissa, Pennsylvania to marry Nathaniel McClure, a boy she’s never met. Her father, Ransloe Boone, is a stranger to her. What kind of life awaits Verity?
When Verity discovers the caged graves of her mother and aunt on the outside of the town’s cemetery fence, she knows she won’t rest until she knows the truth about their deaths and the placement of these mysterious cages. Are the cages there to protect the living or the dead? Did these women practice witchcraft? Is there a connection between these graves and a missing satchel of gold?
I love this story. You think you know what to expect. A little romance, a little mystery. A nice historical fiction. It’s much more. From the beginning, Verity has a mind of her own. She and Nate get off to a rocky start. Not everything in town is as it seems. Some friends and family members come on strong, some hold back, and their motives are unclear. Then a new character emerges and strong temptations develop. Strangers lurk in the darkness and Verity stumbles into danger more than once. And just when you think you know whom to trust and where the story is headed, Salerni introduces wild plot twists that propel you to its ultimate conclusion.
In addition to the story’s suspenseful plot developments, I like how Salerni includes all kinds of references to life during these times, from everyday living and customs, clothes, food, wealth and social class, and medicine, to the realities of two American wars. She paints a great picture of a time when marriages were often business arrangements, medical practices were still developing and included many herbal remedies and witchcraft was something to be feared.
This is a great read. It’s fun, educational, scary, and just a little bit racy!
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