REVIEW: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Hot Key Books on 27th October 2015
Pages: 496
Source: *Received from Publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.

Josephine Montfort is from one of New York's oldest, most respected, and wealthiest families. Like most well-off girls of the Gilded Age, her future looks set - after a finishing school education, she will be favourably married off to a handsome gentleman, after which she'll want for nothing. But Jo has other dreams and desires that make her long for a very different kind of future. She wants a more meaningful and exciting life: she wants to be an investigative journalist like her heroine Nellie Bly. But when Jo's father is found dead in his study after an alleged accident, her life becomes far more exciting than even Jo would wish. Unable to accept that her father could have been so careless, she begins to investigate his death with the help of a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher. It quickly becomes clear he was murdered, and in their race against time to discover the culprit and his motive, Jo and Eddie find themselves not only battling dark characters on the violent and gritty streets of New York, but also their growing feelings for each other.
These Shallow Graves is one of my favourite mystery novels I have read in a long time, and seeing as it is historical fiction which is my favourite genre, I loved it even more. I am not a massive fan of the cover though, it is very pretty and tells you more about the book than the US cover, which made me think this novel was about something completely different; I did not get historical fiction from that cover.

When Josephine awakes to hear of her father's death, she refuses to believe it was a suicide. Having watched her father for years, every night looking out to the streets of New York below, he always looked haunted by something. Then when she finds a spare bullet on the floor of his study, alongside overhearing a young reporter with his own theories surrounding her father's death, she makes it her job with Eddie to find out what really happened to her father, and become the reporter she has always wanted to be.

"Jo knew it would lead to trouble. Asking questions, demanding explanations - these things always led to trouble. The moment a girl learnt to talk, she was told not to."
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, Paperback page 48

Josephine as a character was witty, sophisticated and sassy. She knew what she wanted and would do what she needed to do to get it. Alongside that, she saw many people for who they really were, not just going along with everything because she had to. I think the only frustrating thing about Josephine, which was something that made her and her social status that more realistic, was her naivety. She knew nothing of the real things that were going on in the city, as she wouldn't due to her sheltered life, however it made her character that more realistic, as though you were going on this journey alongside her. I also loved how she stuck up for herself, going against societies views of women.

"The glittering ball, Jo realised, was a symbol of her life. Everything was lovely and perfect as long as each person knew the steps and executed them."
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, Paperback page 172

The plot of this novel. Wow. It was paced perfectly, and although I was able to guess correctly what happened in the end, there were certainly some surprises and twists that I definitely was not expecting. Alongside this, the imagery and setting was brilliant. Every scene I was able to visualise as though I was there, and could not stop reading for it was so addictive. The plot was certainly not repetitive like it can be for some mysteries, and will certainly have you addicted and at the edge of your seat for some scenes.

"If you're going to bury the past, bury it deep, girl. Shallow graves always give up their dead."
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, Paperback page 187

Overall, an excellently addictive historical mystery, with a realistic protagonist whom you could not help but root for. I look forward to reading Donnelly's future novels!


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