Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Mystery/Thriller
Source: Hot Key Books

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.
Review by Nara

I definitely have to say, I think where Jennifer Donnelly excels is at historical fiction. The way she writes really takes you back to the time period in which her stories are set- you can tell that things are well researched, and even if there are some small errors, the writing is so atmospheric that you can forgive her for them.

These Shallow Graves starts off with a relatively light scene contemplating the role of women in 1900s New York, and then quickly becomes heavier and heavier with each chapter that passes. Main character Jo's father is killed in what is deemed to be an "accident"- mistakenly shooting himself while cleaning his revolver. Jo is a bit of a budding reporter and takes it on herself to research the incident, believing that it is unlikely that her father would be so careless. She quickly finds herself entangled in a web of corruption, and struggles to make sense of what has happened.

I have to say, the culprit behind all the lies and secrecy is pretty dang obvious. I mean, it's kind of difficult to truly shock people in this sort of mystery/thriller, and I doubt that the predictability would detract from the story in a major way. That being said, there are lots of little twists and turns before we reach the "big reveal" which are great in keeping the pace rolling forward.

The romance was unexpectedly pretty great. A bit cliched, but I feel like the cliches actually worked well with the story and the setting. The love interest, Eddie, is a journalist, and helps Jo with her various shenanigans. The way the two interact is relatively realistic, and I definitely felt like rooting for them throughout the novel. The other characters are actually pretty well developed too, with some of them having much larger roles than I originally suspected.

All in all, a pretty good mystery/thriller and a wonderful historical. Recommended for people who like atmospheric writing.

Really liked it
Overall: 9/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 3.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5