Valentine Deluca regularly visits her mother’s grave in their small community of Fevers Crossing in “Girl at the Grave.” When she was 6, Valentine saw her mother kill Nigel Blackshaw, one of the prominent men in the community, and her mother was later hanged for it.
Set in New England as fall turns to winter in 1849, Valentine, now 18, is one of the top students at the exclusive Drake Academy and is hoping to prove herself beyond the long memories of the local gossips.
With just her and her father, who travels for business, at their crumbling house, she tries to carve out a life and see a future for herself.
When the local rector shares that someone else may have pulled the trigger that night and dies in the following days, and her father and a friend go missing, Valentine finds herself caught up in finding who is not only responsible for Nigel’s death, but uncovering other long-held secrets.
Navigating social classes for school functions along with intrigues — both with business and romance, with subsequent heartbreak — among the community’s powerful families, Valentine tries to find who she can trust and who could be responsible as she uncovers the layers to mystery.
Teri Bailey Black offers a historical mystery where the hidden past has twisted its way into the present and it takes time to unwind it to find the truth. It’s a tightly-crafted mystery with a smart main character that doesn’t let up until the end.
Black’s well-thought-out cast of characters feels like it could be in any small-town community, from the wealthy and powerful to the quirky friends.
“Girl at the Grave” doesn’t have any described sexual content or swearing. It does have some generally described violence as Valentine remembers the night of the shooting and several deaths are investigated.
“Girl at the Grave” won the Whitney Award in the general young adult category and also Best Novel by a Debut Author. The Whitney Awards honor novels written by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.