The Caged Graves

The Caged Graves

by Dianne K. Salerni


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The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544336223
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/28/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 739,045
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Dianne K. Salerni was inspired to write this novel after finding two real-life caged graves. She is a fifth grade teacher and children’s book author who lives in New London, Pennsylvania. Visit her website at

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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The Caged Graves 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
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.
Its_Time_Mamaw More than 1 year ago
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.
Paperback_Wonderland More than 1 year ago
"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!
novelsandnoses More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up on a whim and I am so glad that I did. I’d never heard of it or the author before, but the plot was intriguing and the cover art has a mysterious allure to it. This novel totally surprised me in how much I enjoyed reading it. I finished it in one sitting staying up way later than I should have. Verity is coming back to a town where everyone knows her, but she knows virtually no one. Even her own father is a stranger to her. Most of the townspeople assume Verity knows all the town history and gossip. However, she is shockingly uninformed about her own background and even less so about the townspeople. So Verity walks blindly through the community learning as she goes. It leads her on quite an adventure. This book has lots of twists and turns in it. There is a great sense of suspense created throughout. The townspeople are not always what they seem and Verity enjoys discovering their true nature. It gets her into a few difficult situations. I’ll admit I did not see the ending coming. Nor did I anticipate it happening in such a spectacular fashion. There is no cliffhanger and loose ends are tied up. While the fate of one character is heavily implied rather than seen, I do not believe this leaves any room for said character to come back. And quite frankly, good riddance to that one. Spoilers below. One thing I must say is that Ms. Salerni made Verity and Nate’s relationship real and believable. These two met as very young children (something Verity is unaware of), but they began their courtship through letters. Letters are lovely looks into a person’s soul, but not the entire story. Nate and Verity are desperately awkward together at first. I loved just how awkward they were. They have fun together. They make mistakes with each other. They get mad. It has all the ups and downs of love. But the one thing they have in common is that they are inherently kind. There are different ways to go about being kind, which Nate and Verity represent well. I did not expect there to be a competition for Verity’s affections though. So I was surprised when her head gets turned by the young doctor and suddenly we were in a love triangle. Truthfully, I’m over the love triangle. In this novel, I saw it more as a way to strengthen Nate and Verity than I did anything else. I guess I just didn’t take it all that serious because it was painfully obvious who needed to be together. Still, the young doctor plays an extremely important role in this novel aside from a love interest. He’s a necessary figure in moving the plot along and someone who, like Verity, has not lived his entire life in Catawissa. But he’s not Nate. That seems obvious at first, but you do not understand the real depth of Nate until the scene when Verity assists in her first surgery. I liked Nate before. I was head over heels for him after that. He is a good man. I suppose this is a coming of age story in some ways for both Verity and Nate. While there is the mystery behind the cages graves, this novel is a love story. Not just Nate and Verity’s love story, but Ransloe and Sarah Ann’s story, Verity and her mother as well. It is much more than just romantic love. I liked all the colorful townspeople who give Catawissa life in this novel. Verity is a curious creature that stands up for people but she makes mistakes too.I would love to imagine that her descendants are still running around Catawissa to this day.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
With the Civil War just recently ended and life returning to normal, Verity Boone leaves behind the only family she has ever known in Worcester, Pennsylvania to return to her birthplace of Catawissa in 1867. While she is leaving behind urban convenience and dear relatives, Verity is eager to see her father and her old family home. She is also keen to meet Nate, the man who courted her and proposed through letters, for the first time face-to-face. When Verity arrives in Catawissa nothing is quite what she expected. The Boone house is rundown and neglected. Her father is unsure how to reconcile the two-year-old daughter he sent away upon his wife's death with the seventeen-year-old woman who returned from Worcester. Even her father's housekeeper is distant. Worse, Nate is not what Verity expected from his letters. Faced with the reality of agreeing to marry a practical stranger, Verity wonders if coming back to Catawissa was a terrible mistake. Verity's misgivings multiply when she first visits the Catawissa cemetery. There she finds two graves encased in iron cages just outside the cemetery walls--buried in unconsecrated ground. Locals have any number of explanations: witchcraft, grave robbers, even rumors of hidden treasure. Verity knows these outlandish stories must be hiding a darker truth and she is determined to discover Catawissa's secrets. As Verity tries to unearth the truth about the caged graves and Catawissa's troubled past, she also begins to understand her own place in the town and among her own family in The Caged Graves (2013) by Dianne K. Salerni. The Caged Graves was inspired by two real caged graves the author saw in Catawissa. Nothing is known about the purpose of the cages but their presence inspired this novel. The Caged Graves is a spooky, gripping read. It does not, however, include any supernatural or paranormal elements despite what the jacket summary might suggest. This book is a straightforward historical mystery. And it's delightful. Verity is a determined, likable heroine in a thoroughly engrossing story. Salerni's writing is evocative of the period and well-paced as tension builds throughout the story. All of the characters in the story are well-developed and add to the story in their own way. Verity and Nate's uneasy courtship was a particularly nice story element. I was also thrilled to see Verity's reconnecting with her father become such a large part of the story. With so many (lovely) historical fantasies hitting the market it was nice to find The Caged Graves was a purer historical read. The mystery element sneaks into the story as the focus shifts from Verity adjusting to Catawissa life to Verity investigating the graves. Although the resolution was a bit rushed, the ending the of the story came together logically with a very gratifying twist. The Caged Graves is a pleasant read sure to leave readers happy and eager to research the era (and the real caged graves) as soon as the story is finished. Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. From the beginning to the very end, I enjoyed every minute. Lovely characterization, beautiful conflict, and an engaging story. Clean and HIGHLY recommended. Content: A little violence, a tiny bit of gore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best part is that i am one of her students