Book Review: The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What a fantastic read! It’s such a relief to find a work of historical fiction that has the perfect blend of mystery, strong characters, true historical facts, a love-triangle—of course, and just the right amount of imagination to fill the gaps left by history. It contained one of my favorite historical elements—graves—that were based on the mystery surrounding two caged graves in Catawissa, PA.

Summary

This story takes place in the 19th century and surrounds a young woman named Verity who, after years away, returns to her hometown after her father arranges a marriage for her with Catawissa’s most eligible bachelor, Nate. However, after their disastrous first meeting, she soon uncovers the grave of her mother and aunt, both of which are surrounded by cages. Verity soon resolves to discover the mystery surrounding the scandal the town has whispered about ever since her departure. Why are these graves here? Why did her father do nothing to stop it? How is Nate involved? What did her mother do to deserve such ridicule?

Strengths

  • Length. The story ended when it was supposed to; didn’t drag out or cut short.
  • Characters. Verity, her family, and her love interest(s) all had dimension to them, and they each had their weaknesses and strengths exposed.
  • Unpredictability. Which man will Verity choose to love? Who is the real villain of the story? What’s the mystery surrounding the graves? Just when I think I’m close to the answers, I’m hoodwinked, and I love that!
  • Cover. Not to mention the beautiful cover art!
  • Author Note. Along with a brief history about the graves and the town where they came from, in the author flap Salerni includes a picture of herself at the actual graves she has written about. I think it’s neat she has shown her personal interest in the story in picture form.
Photo credit: Robert Salerni; found at https://missprint.wordpress.com/2013/
06/24/author-interview-dianne-k-salerni/

Weaknesses

  • (None!) I had to think very hard about this one, but I think if the author included more history within the story about the historical context of the age, then I could have connected with the period a bit better (yes, it was after a war, but which war?).

I’m glad the author used for the story the real names on the actual gravestones and, though limited, used what history does tell us about these mysterious caged graves to make up the story that the world does not yet know about them. I recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers and all ages!

Published by Ashley Weaver

I am a writer, reader, student, and teacher of literature and the English language.

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