Genres: Historical, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
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.
From the glittering rooms of the upper class, to the humble streets of the working class, to the underbelly filled with murderers and thugs, These Shallow Graves was an exciting mystery that took me on an entertaining ride.
This book follows Josephine Montfont, a rich socialite in late 19th century New York. It opens on the day she finds out that her father died, and takes the reader through the months following his death as Jo reels from information she discovers telling her that his death wasn’t an accident as reported, nor the suicide that’s rumored, but really murder. Jo meets Eddie, a dashing and daring reporter who helps her unravel the mysteries surrounding her father’s death, and they chase dangerous leads and risk their necks to find out the truth.
This book is a historical thriller, but the mystery wasn’t my favorite part of it. I loved Jo. Naïve, trusting, smart, ambitious, Jo. She was born in a world of privilege where she was groomed from birth to be desirable for a good husband, but she always dreamed of being more. She wants to be a reporter, and her father’s death tests her mettle and forces her to be more than she’s ever been before. There were times when she frustrated me, but I still loved seeing her character growth.
I also really enjoyed the setting. That time felt chaotic as the class structures in America started to crumble and women began making noise. Whether a scene took place in a stuffy ballroom, or on a grimy dock, a spooky graveyard, or a small, intimate bedroom, each was vibrant and I loved being thrown into that world. These Shallow Graves was very lively and it reminded me a bit of Gangs of New York.
Most of all, I loved the romance (of course I loved the romance). I loved seeing Josephine battle with what was expected of her and what she felt was right and true to her heart. I loved seeing her wrestle to overcome the shackles that held her back so that she could realize her strength, her dreams, and her freedom.
What I didn’t love, and what might be the most important thing for some readers considering how it’s categorized, was the mystery. I thought it was predictable. And I wished that the mood was darker. I have to say, although I figured out who did it pretty early on I was still excited to see if I was right, and I was very curious to see what the motivations were for the character that I suspected was responsible. Plus, I got a kick out of seeing Jo unravel all the clues. And the climax was awesome. My blood rushed during the scenes when everything came to light.
I fell in love with Jennifer Donnelly’s writing and storytelling with Revolution, and I picked up These Shallow Graves expecting to be taken on an unforgettable journey. Although I didn’t love this one nearly as much, I was still thoroughly entertained, and am looking forward to catching up with Donnelly’s backlog and reading her future work.