95. Dianne K. Salerni, The Caged Graves
I don't know where I first heard of Dianne Salerni's new book, The Caged Graves, but I remember being fascinated by this historical novel inspired by a real-life occurrence: the existence of "caged" graves in a cemetery in Catawissa, PA. After discovering the graves, Salerni searched to find the mystery as to why the cages were placed around the grave, to no avail. This novel is one possible answer.
I have to say that this is my favorite book that I've read in some time. I love historical novels to begin with, and this nineteenth-century story had everything I love: interesting historical details, realistic characters, a wonderful romance, mystery, and just enough hints of the occult to give the story flavor.
Seventeen-year-old Verity Boone's homecoming to Catawissa, PA, is nothing like she expected. Nate McClure, the young man she's become engaged to via corresponance, does not match the picture his letters created in her mind. Her father seems distant and uncomfortable with her. And worst of all, she's discovered that the mother who died when she was a toddler has been buried in unhallowed ground outside the cemetery walls--with a cage over her gravesite. No one can tell her why, exactly--she hears wild stories ranging from grave robbers to dead that refuse to stay put. Verity is equal parts horrified and determined to solve the mystery of her mother's sudden death and burial, alongside that of her mother's young sister-in-law, a strange young woman from an outcast family who died the same day as her mother.
As Verity comes to know more about her town, she encounters both prejudice and unexpected kindness and heroism. Her mother's death seems somehow bound up in rumors of Revolutionary War-era gold treasure and witchcraft. As Verity pieces through the mystery, she also has to sort through her own feelings. Does she love Nate McClure enough to marry him--or is the young doctor whose flirtations make her heart flutter the real partner for her?
Sometimes in novels I find love triangles annoying, but Salerni presents this one so well--both young men are truly likeable characters, and Verity's confusion and distress in trying to figure out her heart are realistic. And while I figured out the mystery behind her mother's death pretty early on, there were other twists in the plot that I did not see coming. Salerni does a wonderful job of combining lovable characters, setting, and intriguing plotlines into a great story.
This isn't the kind of book that makes you muse for days after reading it, but if you're just looking for a wonderful, heart-warming story, this could be it.