Release Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult | Mystery | Thriller | Historical
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.
I had to revisit Jennifer Donnelly's THESE SHALLOW GRAVES because I didn't quite get into it on my first try but I finally managed to get the book's groove on my second attempt. I love a lot of things about this novel from its turn of the century (1890) historical setting to the murder mystery, the schemes, the suspicious looking characters, down to the nitty-gritty rules of society, Jo Montfort's world and special situation sure made for a fascinating plot.
THESE SHALLOW GRAVES is a young adult historical suspense mystery that has a mature tone to it. Jo Montfort is a debutante and an heiress to a shipping fortune and it all changed when Jo's dad died from an accident/suicide. But upon closer inspection, it looks like her dad was murdered. And as there's a big cover-up happening and everyone is quick to rule it a suicide, it's now up to Jo to prove it otherwise. The question is: who did it and why? The answers are jaw-dropping.
JDonnelly gave an authentic feel to the time period from the setting down to the dialogue, lending the novel an authentic atmosphere that is unique to the era. I also enjoyed how JDonnelly peeled the layers of this story, stripping Jo's charmed life slowly as her investigation moves forward. The build up was gripping, there were a lot of moving parts, the trail is long and filled with characters that added flavor to the story. The big reveal was pretty devastating even in today's standards and Jo didn't come out of the opposite end unscathed. The resolution is also strong, I love how things were wrapped up as it opened the story to new possibilities. I wouldn't be surprised if JDonnelly releases a companion novel or turns this into a series.
So why only give THESE SHALLOW GRAVES 3 cauldrons? Ironically it's because of Jo. For someone who plans on being a credible journalist (scandalous idea for a woman of her class during this time), Jo was a bit dry for a narrator and lacked wit. Thankfully her love interest, Eddie, a newspaper reporter and the one who helped Jo uncover the conspiracy behind her father's death, made up for some of Jo's shortcomings and provided a more compelling voice. My favorite is Oscar, the med student studying forensics, whose scenes are pretty gut churning, but very entertaining a la CSI and funny; and street urchin, Fay. If JDonnelly is planning a companion novel, I vote for Oscar or Fay to lead it.
Aside from the well-executed plot, the romance is not so bad either. There's a forbidden element as Jo's rich and Eddie's poor, but it's not in the forefront and didn't derail the plot, it just added another layer of tension to the story which enhanced the ending for me. And despite my criticisms for Jo's character, I like her very much. She's not whiny, flighty, or a tempestuous 17yo, she's very smart and resourceful and I can't help but admire her optimistic attitude after everything that's happened.
THESE SHALLOW GRAVES is a good historical mystery and I enjoyed the tale, got swept my the mystery, and love JDonnelly's style. I look forward to her next novel in this genre.