In the shadows of New York City lies the abandoned, forbidden North Brother Island, where the remains of a shuttered hospital hide the haunting memories of century-old quarantines and human experiments.
The ruins conceal the scarred and beautiful Cora, imprisoned there by contagions and the doctors who torment her. When Finn, a young urban explorer, arrives on the island and glimpses this enigmatic woman through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past—and his own family’s dark secrets.
By unraveling these mysteries, will he be able to save Cora? Or will she meet the same tragic ending as the thousands who’ve already perished on the island? The Vines combines North Brother Island’s horrific and elusive history with a captivating tale of love, betrayal, survival, and loss.
“THE VINES weaves beautiful writing around an unsettling mystery: Who is the strange, scarred woman living on a seemingly uninhabitable island? Shelley Nolden’s debut seems not just prescient – given the world’s current focus on virology and immunizations – but also timeless, as it illustrates in painful detail how mankind seems destined to repeat our cruelest mistakes. Luckily for us readers, there’s a bright thread of hope running through this book – as well as the promise of a sequel.”
– Sarah Pekkanen
#1 NYT bestselling co-author of You Are Not Alone
“Highly original and richly drawn, Shelley Nolden’s THE VINES features one of the most fascinating central characters you’ll ever meet. Drawing on both the dark history of North Brother Island and today’s painfully immediate worries about immunity and transmission of deadly disease, this debut transcends genre to combine history, thrills, obsession, medical ethics, and more into the compelling story of three generations of doctors and one remarkable woman.”
– Greer Macallister
Bestselling author of The Magicians Lie and The Arctic Fury
Cross Genre Award-Winner and Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense, Historical Fiction, and General Fiction categories of the 2021 International Book Awards
Cross Genre Winner and Medical Thriller Winner of the 2021 National Indie Excellence Awards
2021 American Fiction Awards Winner Best New Fiction
Winner | Mystery/Suspense: Historical – Winner | Cross Genre – Finalist | Historical Fiction – Finalist | Thriller: Medical – Finalist
Eric Hoffer Award 2021 Finalist
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Excerpt from Chapter One
A distant shriek pierced his eardrums. The sound must have come from one of the black-crowned night herons nesting at North Brother Island’s southern end.
The woman tilted back her head and released water from a camp shower bag; it flowed down her long hair to the top of her calves, where the dirt-caked tub shielded the rest of her from view.
During his stint in the Peace Corps in Africa, not once had he seen a body so mutilated. Nor, in his twenty-eight years on this earth, one so graceful. An impossible combination, yet there she stood.
His heart pulsing, Finn pressed himself against a tree trunk strangled by a mulberry vine. There was something “off” about this place he’d been longing to visit his entire life. He could feel it; an aching brittleness, as if he’d already been reduced to the same decaying state as the bird carcass his boot had crunched in the darkness an hour earlier.