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Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family-it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” But none of that seems to matter after Tori witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.

Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events-including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin-that seem to point back to Nathaniel.

As Tori digs for the truth-and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel-she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried at any cost.

From award-winning author Elle Cosimano comes a haunting, atmospheric thriller perfect to hand to readers of the Mara Dyer trilogy and Bone Gap.

Elle Cosimano, author of THE SUFFERING TREE, spent some time discussing her latest novel with The Big Thrill:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

This story really explores, and is (I hope) a testament to, the limitless aspects of young adult books—the richness of them. It’s a thriller, a layered mystery (one from long ago, entangled with one in present day) at its heart. The narrative voices are both historical and contemporary. It’s deeply romantic, and at times deeply terrifying. There are paranormal elements, and yet the story seeks to unwrap and make sense of the things that haunt us in the real world. Trying to classify this book, or pin down its genre, is tough. And yet to say it’s just for young adults feels a bit too limiting. Young adult literature is enjoyed by people of all ages, and people who like all kinds of great books.

Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I experimented quite a bit with point of view. Finding the right point of view, tense, and voice for both narrators—one, a boy living in the early 1700s longing for place and a sense of belonging, and the other a girl living in present day keeping her distance from the rest of the world—was a challenge, and required a lot of trial and revision. It was a wonderful exercise in character development, in risk-taking, and stretched my wings.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

A great amount of historical research went into the crafting of this story. The mystery draws on events from the lives of two indentured servants from the colonies of southern Maryland and ties them into a modern-day mystery.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I aspire to write character-driven stories. More than anything, I want to make the reader care. I like stories that explore what it means to be human, and take me deep inside the characters’ minds and hearts. I like authors that make me think about those characters as if they were real people, long after I close the book. Authors like Tana French (The Dublin Murder Squad books), Megan Miranda (All The Missing Girls), Mary Kubica (The Good Girl), Gillian Flynn (Sharp Objects) Steve Hamilton (The Lock Artist) have these incredibly rich characters and voices, in addition to compelling mysteries. I love reading books that allow me to unfold the character as thoroughly as I unwrap the mystery.


Elle Cosimano grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, the daughter of a maximum security prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rode a Harley. As a teen, she spent summers working on a fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay. A failed student of the hard sciences, she discovered her true calling in social and behavioral studies while majoring in psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Fifteen years later, Elle set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. Her debut novel, Nearly Gone, was an Edgar Award Finalist, winner of the International Thriller Writers’ Best Young Adult Novel Award, and winner of the inaugural Mathical Book Award recognizing mathematics in children’s literature. Elle lives with her husband and two sons in Mexico, somewhere between the jungle and the sea.

To learn more about Elle and her books, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter (@ellecosimano.).