The Caged Graves [NOOK Book]


The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancé she knows only through letters! Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of ...
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The Caged Graves

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The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancé she knows only through letters! Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of witchcraft, buried gold from the days of the War of Independence, and even more shocking family secrets.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1867, 17-year-old Verity Boone returns to her hometown of Catawissa, Pa., to live with her father and meet, for the first time, her fiancé, Nathaniel McClure. She’s jarred by the differences between the village and her previous life in Worchester, Mass., but even more so by an uneasy relationship with her taciturn father, who sent her away as a child after her mother’s sudden death. Meanwhile, the romantic letters and gifts sent by Nate seem to have come from a different man altogether—he appears mainly interested in acquiring her father’s land. Verity is further unsettled when she finds two graves (one belonging to her mother) imprisoned in iron cages outside the cemetery. She collects stories full of gaps and superstitions, but Verity will have to uncover the truth alone (with help from her mother’s journal). Salerni (We Hear the Dead) constructs an absorbing, atmospheric, and dense work of historical fiction. Readers should find Verity’s persistent and risky attempts to dredge up the past compelling, and also relate to her equally significant search for where her heart lies. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (May)
From the Publisher

"Salerni grounds her story in local Revolutionary War lore, creates a spirited heroine with enough self-reflection to feel convincing and crafts a suspenseful plot that skirts sensationalism. This unusual romantic mystery stands out."

"Salerni constructs an absorbing, atmospheric, and dense work of historical fiction."
—Publishers Weekly

"Readers who enjoy historical fiction, as well as mystery, will enjoy Salerni's tale of witchcraft, hunt for lost treasure, and the real-life mysterl that surrounds some grave sites from the Victorian era that were actually encaged."
—VOYA, 4Q 4P J S

"This one's perfect for a rainy night, a comfy blanket, and a cup of tea."

"Immensely readable. . . Hand this fast-paced, creepy tale to fans of mysteries, forensics, paranormal and historical fiction, and the CSI TV series."

VOYA - Beth H. Green
Verity Boone, originally from Catawissa, Pennsylvania, has returned home after being raised by her aunt in Worcester, Massachusetts, to meet the young man who she has become engaged to marry. Verity's father, Ransloe Boone, who never remarried after the death of Verity's mother, remains tight lipped about the reason Verity's mother's grave is outside of the "hallowed ground" of the church's cemetery. To add further mystery, Verity's mother's grave is surrounded by an iron "cage," along with another young lady who was rumored to have been a witch and died on the same day as Verity's mother. No one from Verity's immediate family will discuss the specifics of her death or the circumstances that surround it. Entangled within Verity's story is the continuing hunt for missing gold from the Revolutionary War in an area known as Shades of Death, which is a swampy forest located by Catawissa. Readers who enjoy historical fiction, as well as mystery, will enjoy Salerni's tale of witchcraft, hunt for lost treasure, and the real-life mystery that surrounds some grave sites from the Victorian era that were actually encaged. Reviewer: Beth H. Green
Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
Verity Boone is moving back to the town where she grew up. She has not been back since she was sent away to live with relatives just after her mother passed away. But this time she is going home to meet her fiance, Nate, who has been courting her through letters. However, life has a few surprises for her. First of all things are a little awkward with Nate. It is like he is not the man who she fell in love with. And she discovers that her mother and her aunt are buried in cages outside of the church consecrated cemetery. Everyone has something to say about what happened when her mother died...but nobody will tell Verity. With a very friendly doctor's apprentice trying to steal her heart and a whole town full of secrets, Verity is not sure if coming home was a good idea. This is a refreshing historical novel with just enough mystery and a dash of romance. Readers will enjoy how Verity shows she is not one to be pushed aside (or frightened by a few rumors). But mostly this is a book about coming back, starting over and making a home. Those with a weak spot for historical romances or unusual mysteries will not want to miss this book. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
School Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Gr 8 Up—It's 1867, and 17-year-old Verity Boone is moving back to Pennsylvania after spending 15 years with relatives in Massachusetts. She's anxious to reunite with her father and meet her fiancé, Nathaniel McClure, for the first time. Unfortunately, life in rural Catawissa isn't what Verity expected and her homecoming is beginning to feel anything but welcoming. Her father is distant, and Verity and Nathaniel's first meeting is awkward and uncomfortable. He doesn't come across as romantic in person as he did in his letters. To make matters worse, he takes Verity on an impromptu walk that leads her to an unsettling sight-her mother's grave enclosed in an ugly, iron cage. Disturbed and heartbroken, Verity is determined to find out why it was placed in unconsecrated grounds. Unfortunately, her father, Nathaniel, and the townsfolk (while quick to gossip about the Boones) aren't talking. The only way to unravel the mystery is to read her mother's diaries, which exposes Verity to unsettling truths about Catawissa and her family. Verity is a likable, feisty, and outspoken heroine. She often infuriates Nathaniel, whom she quickly discovers is worthy of her attentions. Salerni is a masterful storyteller who uses eloquent prose to craft a suspenseful historical mystery that is absolutely impossible to put down.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
When an inquisitive teen returns to her birthplace to meet her fiance, she uncovers a bizarre mystery surrounding her mother's grave, unleashing disturbing buried secrets. Since her mother's death, 17-year-old Verity Boone has lived happily with her aunt in Worcester, Mass. She returns to Catawissa, Penn., in 1867 to meet Nate McClure, the farmer who successfully wooed her with his letters. Verity's initially disappointed and wonders if Nate's really more interested in her father's farm. Compared to the dashing local doctor who barely hides his attraction to Verity, Nate seems dull, even though locals openly resent her for winning the eligible bachelor. As she sorts through her true feelings for Nate, Verity's shocked to discover her mother and aunt buried outside the town cemetery in graves enclosed in metal cages. Why were her mother and aunt ostracized in death? Was it to protect them from body snatchers or grave robbers? Were they suspected of witchcraft? Determined to find the truth, Verity investigates, exposing community prejudices and twisted family secrets that lead her to a perilous confrontation and stunning revelations. Salerni grounds her story in local Revolutionary War lore, creates a spirited heroine with enough self-reflection to feel convincing and crafts a suspenseful plot that skirts sensationalism. This unusual romantic mystery stands out. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547868547
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 165,290
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Dianne K.Salerni, a fifth-grade teacher, lives in New London, Pennsylvania
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Read an Excerpt

June 1867

Catawissa, Pennsylvania


In complete disregard of the conductor’s instructions, Verity Boone sprang from her seat before the train came to a full stop. The other passengers glanced at her with disapproval, but she paid no heed. As the locomotive slowed, Verity fluffed out her curls beneath her bonnet and smoothed her dress. If he was waiting on the platform, she wanted to make a perfect first impression. Then, satisfied she’d done her best after two days of travel across three states, she gazed out at the town of her birth—a place she hadn’t seen in fifteen years. She’d known she was leaving city life behind when she’d departed from Worcester, Massachusetts, but she hoped Catawissa wouldn’t be as rural as she feared.

The conductor opened the door, scowling at the young miss standing so boldly where she shouldn’t be. When her traveling companions, two widowed sisters from Worcester, had disembarked at the previous stop, they’d asked the conductor to watch over her until she reached her destination. Verity wasn’t sure whether she herself or the conductor was more relieved to see his responsibility for her come to an end.

She stepped onto wooden planks speckled with raindrops. The darkening sky suggested that more rain could be expected, and she glanced up and down the platform anxiously. In a matter of minutes the clouds would open and a deluge would fall, but with any luck she’d be under the roof of a carriage by then. Surely he would already be here to greet her. Verity hoped she’d recognize him, for it would be humiliating to bumble around from stranger to stranger.

Then she spied a figure at the end of the platform and sighed. She did recognize the man who’d come for her, although he wasn’t the one she’d been hoping for. She’d seen this man only twice in the last five years, but she knew him at once.

Ransloe Boone. Her father.

Of course her father had come to meet her train. Verity chastised herself for a moment’s disappointment. Their eyes met, and he looked startled. Verity knew she had changed more than he had in the years since their last meeting. A young woman of seventeen was quite different from a girl of . . . what had she been? . . . fourteen at his last visit?

Verity forced down any feeling of discontent. She should be happy her father had come for her. It was just that she’d thought Nate might be waiting at the station.

"Verity?" her father asked when he reached her side, as if he still weren’t sure.

"Hello, Father." She offered a smile in greeting, but he seemed too dumbfounded to return it, sweeping his gaze over her from bonnet to boot. She surveyed him more discreetly, noting his overlong hair, his patched coat, and the dingy shirt he wore open at the collar without a tie or cravat.

"Your trunks?" he inquired after an awkward moment of silence. Verity produced a ticket, and her father accepted it with relief, as if claiming the baggage were a more comfortable task than greeting a grown daughter he barely knew.

To Verity’s distress, her father had brought a farm wagon to fetch her from the station. She had a feeling it was all he owned, but—glancing apprehensively at the sky—she wished he had borrowed a covered conveyance.

He supervised the loading of her trunks, then climbed up onto the driver’s seat and took the reins. Only when the porter handed Verity up beside him did her father seem to realize he should have done that himself. He half rose from his seat, looking embarrassed, but Aunt Maryett had warned Verity not to mind his brusqueness. "He’s been alone too long," she’d said. "You’ll probably have to reteach him his manners. Go gently with him!" Verity smiled at her father and settled her skirts around her.

Ransloe Boone drove the wagon down the main street of town, away from the Susquehanna River, past square lots filled with businesses and houses. Verity was relieved to spot at least one store and a lovely town common, as well as a telegraph office, a hotel, and the business sign of a photographer hanging outside a well-kept home. Perhaps she hadn’t consigned herself to the wilderness after all, although she would miss Worcester’s sidewalks and gas streetlamps—and the only home she could remember.

Yesterday morning she’d awakened for the very last time in the bed she’d shared for years with her Gaines cousins. Polly had cried until her nose turned red. "Write us every week," her cousin and closest friend had implored her. "Tell me all about him, and whatever you do, try to make a good impression and show some tact!"

Mindful of this, Verity bottled up her thoughts for almost a quarter of a mile, but eventually she could not resist turning to her father and blurting out, "I thought Nate might come to the station."

Ransloe Boone looked at her with a furrowed brow. "Nate?"

"Nathaniel McClure," she said pointedly. Her father ought to know whom she meant; he’d agreed to their engagement.

"Why would he come?" her father grunted. He turned back to face the road and clucked at the horse. "You’ve never met him."

"Precisely why I thought he might come." "

It wouldn’t have been suitable for him to fetch you from the station," her father went on. "Besides, you’ll meet him on Friday."

Not until Friday? That was four days away! She managed to bite back her first thought and shared only her second. "Why on Friday?"

"The McClures expect us to attend a party." Her father said the word party as if it meant having a tooth pulled. "Fanny McClure wants to welcome you home. That’s Nathaniel’s mother," he added.

"Yes, I know," Verity replied. "He’s written me about his family." Over the course of the last five months, they’d exchanged letters regularly. There’d been gifts as well: hair ribbons, and then kid gloves, and most recently a book of poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

"You’ll meet him then." Ransloe Boone glanced at her. "That’s soon enough, isn’t it?"

Verity smiled prettily, and her father took that as agreement.


The rain started falling before they’d left the town. Verity glared at the sky, offended that it should rain on her homecoming. Ransloe Boone reached under the seat and hauled out an umbrella, which he handed to his daughter. She made an attempt to cover both of them, but he waved it off and settled his hat more firmly on his head.

The country road passed verdant fields and hills, dairy farms, and orchards, interrupted by wooded areas of shrubs with long, folded leaves and bunches of white and pink flowers. She caught a hint of their sweet fragrance in the rain as they passed by. When the horse turned onto a narrow dirt road without a signal, Verity knew they must be nearly home.

The first dwelling on the road was a green farmhouse with white shutters, immaculately tended. Rosebushes flanked the porch, and an arbor led to a garden in the back.

"That’s the Thomas house," her father said.

Verity nodded. Her mother had grown up in this house, and her mother’s brother, John Thomas, now lived here with his family. Verity had no memory of the house or her uncle; she knew the Thomases only from their mention in letters. They were her father’s closest neighbors, although she saw this meant something different in the country than it did in the city.

The Boone house was entirely hidden from view until they had gone nearly a mile down the mountain road and around a wide turn. The sight of it did not particularly cheer her. Small and plain, it had been painted a stark and serviceable white. She could see no speck of color anywhere, and overall the property seemed as unprepossessing as her stiff and distant father.

A longing for Worcester and the family she’d left behind gripped her heart with startling intensity. She’d envisioned a happy—even romantic—arrival in Catawissa. Instead she was wet, bedraggled, and a stranger here.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Verity Boone returns to her birthplace engaged to a man she has

    Verity Boone returns to her birthplace engaged to a man she has no memory of ever having met before. When she finally meets her intended, she is left with doubts and hesitation, and her return to her home leaves her filled with questions. How did her mother die? What happened to leave her father so closed off to the world? Was her aunt a witch? And what, in Heaven's name, is with the cages covering her mother and aunt's graves? Everyone she turns to for answers seem to only leave her with more questions.

    I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. The idea of graves with cages is just so...creepy! You can't help but think they are to keep the dead where they lay. Is this a zombie story? What is with those crazy cages?

    There was a romantic element to this story that took me by surprise. It wound up having a bit of a historical romance feel to it which, given the caged graves aspect, you wouldn't think would work, but it did. There was a wealth of characters, but they were easy to keep track of (I hate when I can't keep up with the characters and follow who is who).

    Verity's father is a little cold and distant, but he offers Verity her mother's diaries in hopes that she may find some of the answers she is looking for. In so doing, Verity also learns about the man her father used to be.

    The author had an engaging writing-style, with little witticisms tossed in to make me smile.

    My final word: I enjoyed this story even more than I expected. It wound up being an odd mix of mystery, horror and romance, and yet it worked. Verity was a likable young girl, and her intended husband Nate was equally likable (although he had a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth). The storyline kept me guessing, wondering where it was going, and just how these caged graves fit into it. With equal parts romance and creepiness, I found this story surprisingly enjoyable.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Verity Boone at age two years, was taken from her father, shortl

    Verity Boone at age two years, was taken from her father, shortly after her mothers  unforeseen death, in order to have the chance to have a normal life while being raised with her cousins in her Aunt's home.  Now Verity is 17 years old and has promised to marry a respectable young man from her home town of Catawissa, Pennsylvania.  When she arrives at her father's home nothing is familiar to her. She did not receive a very warm welcome from anyone including her father. Something was not right, maybe she was being ill treated because people were jealous that she was to marry the most sought after bachelor in Catawissa.  But then as time goes by it is apparent it was more of the fact she was her mother's daughter. Stories of witchcraft was whisper behind her back.  There are many secrets leading up to her mother's death and even at this time in her life when she should be enjoying the preparations for her wedding she is forced to face a life and death situation with no one to turn to for help. 

    If this had been a movie, which I think it should be, you would be sitting on the edge of your seat and would not dare to go to the restroom or to get popcorn. Yep, it is that good.  I did not want to put the book down I took it everywhere with me. Yes even to the restroom.  

    The author has done a bang up job on this book. You will find high anxiety, greed, action, mystery, romance and redemption all through this book. What a creative imagination this author has put to work in her writing.  I hope to be reading more of her books soon.

    I highly recommend this book.

    Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Netgalley for review. I was in no way compensated for this review.  This review is my honest opinion.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2013

    "A love triangle and you gave it 4 stars?" But there

    "A love triangle and you gave it 4 stars?" But there is a reason for it, so for all of you who are weary of reading this book because of the dreaded love triangle, please don't be!

    Verity was sent away from Catawissa to live with relatives when she was a little girl, after her mother passed away. Now that she's seventeen she's started corresponding with a young man from her old town. It would be an advantageous marriage - he helped keep her father's farm during the war, and she's her father's only child. But it's not all business! Verity is a romantic and Nate seems perfect in the letters he's sent her. Why, he even sent her a book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems, how much romantic could the whole thing be?

    The thing is, once they meet, it's soon revealed that Nate let his sisters pick the gifts he was sending her. So who is this man? He's not the one with whom Verity has been trading love letters, that's for sure, he's so serious, and pragmatic, and all he cares about is farming...

    Add to this the fact that her own father seems to care very little for her, and Beulah, the housekeeper, can't seem to even stand her presence, and Verity is starting to think her decision to come back to Catawissa was a big mistake.
    But trouble is only starting, once she stumbles upon the graves of her mother and aunt she finds them in unhallowed ground and placed within iron cages.
    Wherever she turns Verity is faced with evasions, half truths, malicious rumours and outright lies as to what made the townsfolk inter her relatives like this.
    Was it witchcraft? Was it a fabled treasure buried with one of the women? Or was it because, as they say, “In Catawissa sometimes the dead don’t stay where you put them.”?

    Whatever the truth, Verity is determined to find it, and in the midst of all this the only one who is kind to her from the beginning is the new doctor's apprentice, Hadley, who makes it very plain that he doesn't care for her arranged marriage and he has feelings for her.

    Now, the love triangle is presented, I won't spoil it for you, but to reveal that it didn't bother me. One of the "angles" was never a serious contender and in a town where everyone is a suspect, and Verity's life seems, at times, threatened, the love triangle had reason to be. If not only to highlight how right the steady and true kind of love is by comparison.

    The book also gains points for the progression of the non-romantic relationships portrayed between Verity, her father, Beulah, and Nate's sisters.

    So if you love a good gothic mystery, realistic characters, and a lovely romance, this is the book for you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    Good book

    The best part is that i am one of her students

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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