These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: October 27th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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. (from Goodreads)
I’m a bit conflicted about These Shallow Graves. Overall, I really enjoyed it and really liked the characters and overarching story. On the other hand, I found the identity of the murderer to be so obvious (literally, I figured it out from the first few chapters and I’m sure most people did too) that to not have the heroine discover it until the very end of the book (which is nearly 500 pages) took away from the story a bit. I understand that having the heroine figure out too soon would ruin the plot, but then it shouldn’t have been made so obvious to the reader! It was very frustrating to have the heroine ask all these questions and follow wrong leads when you KNEW who she should have been after. My theory as to who the murderer was never even wavered. I never ever suspected someone else, that’s how obvious it was. While I usually don’t mind a bit of predictability in books, this was just too much. I have still rated it a 4 though, because it really was good as whole.
I really enjoyed Jo as our main character. She was pretty damn cool at times, and I thought she did a lot of growing up in this book. She started off as very naive, and stuck in her own little bubble (through no fault of her own really, her parents sheltered her). It was actually quite funny at times, the way she didn’t understand certain things people were talking about and then asked them directly what they meant - she embarrassed herself a fair few times by doing that! As the book went on, she became more daring. She disobeyed her parents, met with people her family would never approve of and longed for a future where she was free to write the articles she wanted to write, instead of ones about cats and poetry. A future where she was free to marry who she wanted. I liked that she pointed out the unfairness in the way women were treated in comparison to men. She didn’t like that her choices were so limited when men could do whatever they wanted. You also can’t fault her determination, she would not rest until she found her father’s killer. She made a few mistakes along the way (and didn’t verify information - oh that scene before the funeral! It could have been anyone, why did she make that assumption, she had no idea what she was seeing - ahh! And then she decided to do the thing, whyyy. Her emotions were so changeable) and was dense at times (seriously), but she didn’t give up.
Eddy was a reporter at a newspaper, and was roped into helping Jo find out who murdered her father. He was reluctant to begin with, but at the same, discovering the truth would give him his first big scoop, so he agreed. Of course, the two grew closer and I found them very cute. I like the way they joked with each other, and argued over who should investigate what. Jo’s emotions, as I said before, were very changeable - probably due to the fact that she’d never spend so much time alone with a boy before. One minute she was thinking she “loved” him (do you hear me sighing? I’m sighing) one minute she was thinking she hated him - it was a confusing time for her, and she sometimes made some snap judgments (as did Eddy - man, if only mobile phones existed during this time. Or email. They could have communicated so much more effectively) that led to conflict between them. But I did really like their relationship overall. They both tried their best, and Eddie was sweet - even when he had fallen out with Jo and said he wouldn’t help her anymore, he still did. He was very likeable and I really enjoyed the romance between these two!
Another character I really loved was Fay. She had some amazing skills in thieving and fighting, and was a great person to have around if you were ever in trouble. She’d had a difficult life, and was forced to grow up very young. Despite this, she remained a good person, (though understandably, had a bit of difficulty trusting people) and helped out Jo and Eddy when she could. I really wanted a happy ending for her, she really deserved one.
Plot-wise, there was a lot I enjoyed about this novel and there were things I didn’t guess. The murderer though, the murderer! It was so obvious! I won’t keep ranting on about it though, so here are the things I liked instead. I enjoyed the parts where Jo was sneaking out to do some investigating, and I loved all the scenes between Jo and Eddy. I loved the way Jo was learning to use her innocent persona to her advantage and how she became more cunning towards the end! I was also really happy with the ending (and I wouldn’t say no to a sequel, either! Though I doubt that will happen since most things were wrapped up well).
All in all, These Shallow Graves was a very enjoyable read. I probably would have rated it higher if it weren’t for the obviousness of the murderer, but I think a 4 is still a very good rating. Recommended if you like historical fiction and mysteries (as long as you’re prepared for the fact that you will probably guess who the killer is very early on).