True life Pennsylvania mysteries inspire young adult novel

The prologue to “Caged Graves” takes place in Wyoming Valley in 1778, setting up the greed and avarice that is still driving the inhabitants almost 90 years later.

Chapter one begins in 1867 and introduces the reader to 17 year old Verity Boone, daughter of Ransloe Boone and soon to be the wife of Nathaniel McClure. Verity has only known Nate by the letters they have exchanged, but her father thinks they are a good match and he wants his daughter to come back to Catawissa from Worcester, Mass. where she had been raised by an aunt after the death of her mother when Verity was two.

But the letters had been deceptive, painting a portrait of her intended that was now obvious had been contrived by his sisters.

When she realizes the truth, she runs from Nate and finds herself in a graveyard where she discovers her mother’s and her aunt’s graves outside the church yard and enclosed in a two coffin-wide cage.

The search for the truth of her mother’s death and unusual burial puts her in danger. The slowly growing attraction to Nate, with its ups and downs, makes a romantic plot and the confusion about whom she can trust in Catawissa holds the reader in gripping suspense.

When I read it I didn’t know it was categorized as a young adult novel and I thought of the adult mystery lovers who would enjoy it and as I finished it, I said to myself, “This would make a good young adult novel too.”

The author of “Caged Graves,” Dianne Salerni saw two caged graves when she was visiting Catawissa and she asked everyone she could “Why are the graves caged?” No one knew the answer, so she took the names on the gravestones and built the story she shares in her book.

Salerni, a fifth grade teacher in New London, Pa., will be coming for Otto’s First Friday signings Friday. From 5 to 8 p.m., you can meet her and listen to her read excerpts from her book.