{Book Review} These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

{Book Review} These Shallow Graves by Jennifer DonnellyThese Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Random House Children's on October 27, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery & Detective, Romance, Social Issues, Thrillers, Young Adult
Pages: 488
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Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

This book and I had an interesting journey together. I tried reading it twice before, and I had trouble getting into it. Because it was from NetGalley, I tried harder to continue than your average book, and I’m so glad I did. This last time around, I was completely sucked into These Shallow Graves.

Josephine Montfort, a lady of high society in 1890’s New York, finds herself in some very unladylike situations when she begins investigating her father’s supposed suicide (which she is convinced is murder), with the help of the charming reporter Eddie Gallagher. The two make a great pair, even though Eddie is constantly trying to get Jo to go home where she’s safe. Jo is determined, intelligent, stubborn and inquisitive, making her likable and a heroine to root for as she plunges into the seediest parts of New York, against the wishes of poor Eddie, who’s all too acquainted with the darker side of town. The clues they find and the people they meet create an even darker mystery than they previously thought, dashing all of Jo’s original perceptions of high society.

Jo was occasionally annoyingly naive or stupid, but as someone who has been sheltered for most of her life, that’s to be expected. Eddie is supremely likable, and their romance blossomed like an adorable little flower as they flitted around New York, evading anyone who might recognize Jo and anyone who wished them ill (which, as it happens, turned out to be a lot of people). They journey into pubs, brothels, graveyards, museums, insurance offices, shipyards, and many other places that Jo didn’t even know existed to uncover clues. Which causes Eddie to be frequently unhappy, seeing as he can’t seem to persuade her to stop going places that could get her killed.

There are delightful secondary characters here as well: Fay, a chameleon pickpocket in the employ of the disgusting Tailor (think Fagin from Oliver Twist) teaches Jo how to protect herself-and how to pick a pocket or two. Oscar, an eccentric doctor who works in the morgue spouts detailed anatomical speeches at every chance he gets. And Jo’s own maid Katie requires payment for helping her mistress out and lying to the family for her. Everyone feels like real people, with real personalities, and the spectrum of types of people is huge.

I was not expecting many of the twists that came out near the end; the last 150 pages or so sped towards the end at break-neck speed, and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how in the world Jo would make it through the ordeal alive. It was positively thrilling.

My main complaint would be that there was a silly relationship conflict that happened because the characters didn’t talk to each other. And then there was hardly any resolution. I was so hoping for more resolution than what we got ( we did get some resolution, but it was rather weak and disappointing in my opinion), but I do understand why Jennifer Donnelly wrote it the way she did. It put the emphasis on Jo, which is important, especially for this time period when women, especially those of the upper class, had practically no control over their lives.

There is lots of interesting historical detail in These Shallow Graves, as well as a heart-racing mystery, some rather adorable romance, and beautiful, exciting prose. I don’t know why I couldn’t get into it the first two times, but as they say, third time’s a charm.

Content: violence, some disturbing images. Recommended for 16+.

Book Review #2

4 Stars


  1. Sarah @ Kerosene Lit says:

    My library just added this one on OverDrive, but I actually had no idea it was a historical fiction until now. I’m super intrigued. I hate when there is conflict because of lack of communication, though. It’s so frustrating. Just talk to each other, dammit XD. Good on you for trying a third time! I don’t know if I would have done the same. It makes me wonder what other books I’ve missed out on, haha. Great review! Definitely more intrigued to read this now.
    Sarah @ Kerosene Lit recently posted…Finally! I Have Read Something Written by Sarah Dessen! Please, Flood Me With Your Additional Favourites!My Profile

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