These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donnelly
*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Publisher: Hot Key Books
First published: 2015
Blurb: A wealthy family. A deadly secret. A girl with more to lose than she knows.
New York, 1890.
Josephine Montfort is form one of New York’s most respected and wealthiest families. Like most affluent girls, Jo’s future is set: a comfortable life in a suitable marriage – but her heart can’t help yearning for more.
And then her father is found dead. It was supposedly a tragic accident, although some details don’t seem to quite add up. Was it really an accident … or worse, murder?
With the help of a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher, Jo is in a race against time to find the culprit. Escaping her gilded cage could be dangerous and Jo will have to face some dark characters on the gritty streets of New York. But some secrets can’t stay hidden forever, no matter how deep you bury them.
History of my copy: I was lucky enough to win a review copy of These Shallow Graves from Maximum Pop! Books! Check out #TheseShallowGravesMP to see my review tweets along with everyone else who won. The full article is here.
I actually finished this book over a month ago on the 23rd of May, but due to exams I have been too busy to get the review up until now.
I went into this book entirely open-minded. I had no idea what it was about, apart from what I had gathered from the blurb. I’m a huge mystery fan, but never read much as it’s difficult to pull off. I was also initially apprehensive of Jo as I didn’t want to read a book about a fortunate, rich girl who didn’t want to be, but she was actually a really good character!
Plot: These Shallow Graves takes us on one hell of a journey! One of my favourite things in books is when the stories are circular i.e. the book starts near the end, then you find out how they got there. These Shallow Graves certainly didn’t disappoint in that aspect, and it was done so well! The book starts with Jo, Eddie, Oscar and Flynn at Darkbriar Asylum with a chapter that really drags you in. They are, after all, digging up a body. Then it suddenly jumps to this contrasting life of Jo being a proper lady at Miss Sparkwell’s School. The book follows Jo as she discovers her Father’s death and how she works with Eddie and Oscar to investigate it, coming to the conclusion that it was actually murder. Together, they discover who the real murderer is whilst uncovering the secret behind their family’s shipping firm.
Setting: Something that really drew me to These Shallow Graves is the unusual setting compared to what I’m used to reading. I’m relatively fond of Victorian era books, but this had a twist as it is set in America during this period. Donnelly is a fantastic writer and describes the setting perfectly – it always feels super realistic, without waffling on.
Characters: Jo makes a refreshing heroine. Whist brave and daring, she is still down-to-earth, has that air of vulnerability which accompanies her upbringing, and clearly has her heart in the right place whilst still making mistakes. She’s not perfect, which is something I love in a world where leads, especially females, are portrayed as brilliant at everything.
Everyone needs to be warned about Eddie Gallagher. He is one of my favourite characters ever and someone I totally feel in love with. Charming, funny and witty but also kind, honest and a true gentleman. He is respectful, but also willing to speak his mind and doesn’t fall head-over-heels for Jo and worship everything she does. Honestly, my heart broke so much for him when he found out about Jo’s engagement.
I’m also going to mention Mary and Fay. Although seemingly insignificant characters, they end up playing a major role and each have an unforeseen plot twist.
To read or not to read: Read. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and am eagerly anticipating its possible sequel. Although it was a little slow to start off with, it turned out to be a fantastically gripping storyline with just the right amount of romance. It ticked all the boxes for a perfect book. It also dealt with the many issues of the era brilliantly, from the different classes, the sexism and even just how easy it was to cover up any scandal if you had the money, right through to the difficult to plan and execute storyline of murder and investigation. I am astounded at how complete and satisfying These Shallow Graves is from start to finish.