I picked up Dianne Salerni's THE CAGED GRAVES because I hadn't read a realistic historical novel in awhile, and the author was local, so I figured it would be the perfect read for a leisurely Saturday.
I'm happy I did, because I found myself so absorbed in the story that I finished it in a few hours.
THE CAGED GRAVES is part suspenseful drama, part historical mystery, and it was a refreshing change from the modern setting, epic scope, and breakneck pace of the books I've been reading lately. (To be clear, it's not a fast-moving plot, but it developed steadily and had me totally intrigued.)
graves are located outside the cemetery walls (on unconsecrated ground) and caged with iron bars.
She begins digging into the mystery of her mom's sudden death and why the cage
was erected in the first place. Throw in a deliciously gothic atmosphere, some suspicious and vindictive townspeople, and rumors of witchcraft and a long-lost treasure, and Salerni has woven together one engrossing tale.
I loved the romantic elements, as well: The purpose of Verity's return home is to meet her betrothed, Nate, with whom she's only exchanged letters. Their attempts to reconcile their romantic ideals of one another with the actual person before them are all-too-relatable for a generation of people who often meet and interact online. (And hooray no insta-love!!)
However, (well-written love triangle alert!) Verity finds herself drawn to and flirting with Hadley, a charming doctor's apprentice from the town. I loved the realism of the situation because she's completely unsure of how true/deep her feelings are for Nate (and his for her!), and the attention that Hadley's showering upon her, coupled with his bold advances, makes Verity (and the reader) swoony and confused.
The best part is, by the end, both the mystery of the caged graves and the love triangle weave together to wrap up nicely. Ah, satisfying endings, how I love thee.
With an intriguing, multi-layered plot, complex characters (plus a setting that's a character in its own right), and quality writing, THE CAGED GRAVES is highly recommended for anyone in the mood for a historical mystery. Best of all, it's available now from Clarion Books.
One lucky reader will win my ARC by commenting below by Friday, May 31st at 11:59pm EST* to answer this appropriately-morbid prompt:
Uh oh, your grave has a cage of its own. Why?
My favorite answer wins!
*The fine print: Can only mail ARC to U.S. addresses! Include your email address or twitter handle so I can reach you, or check back the first week of June to see if you've won!