Published by Delacorte Press on October 27, 2015
Source: the publisher
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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 received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly was such a fun story! And my first book by this author. At first, it seems like this is a simple tale of a girl solving the mystery of her father’s death. The story reads easily but I found it to be layered with plenty of twists throughout. I made a guess at the whodunit early in the story, but I wasn’t completely sure until close to the end. Throw in a great cast of characters (good guys and bad guys) and, really, I just want more from Jennifer Donnelly.
Jo Montfort is a great young girl – she’s complicated and impulsive and she knows what she wants out of life vs. what she is supposed to be in life. She is interested in far more than her socialite status has to offer her. She wants to be a journalist like Nellie Bly. She cares nothing for the plans and the things that her family’s fortune has afforded her, not that she doesn’t appreciate them. When her father is found dead, Jo doesn’t believe the police report indicating an accidental death. She believes that he was murdered. With the help of a local news journalist, she intends to seek the truth behind his death.
When Jo starts sleuthing, I’m not entirely sure she realizes what a big and dangerous job this will eventually turn out to be. Wrapped up in her father’s death is a long trail of lies, betrayal, secrets, dishonesty, and even some illegal things. These truths shock Jo as more and more is revealed, and she eventually has to decide whether or not she wants to continue to pursue the whole truth. She is in danger, and so are people that she loves and cares for. Continued pursuit of the truth has the power to undo her family and change the lives of nearly everyone that she knows. And what she sets in motion, she cannot undo.
I love the setting of this story – NYC in 1890. It worked so well for this type of historical mystery, with the huge difference in the Fifth Avenue grandeur vs. the shady districts by the water and the docks. I love the way that Jo has familial social obligations, but she despises them – this creates a perfect tension between Jo and her family and friends. Doing the investigative work that Jo grows to love removes her from the path that her family has arranged for her, and threatens to completely destroy her future. Doing her investigative work in secret, gives Jo the chance to work with people that her family would consider “shady” – but Jo grows to adore them. These are people that work in less-than-ideal occupations down by the docks, coroners, and of course, Eddie Gallagher…the male journalists who would never be a proper romantic choice for Jo. I love this ragtag secondary cast so much, far much more than I liked anyone in Jo’s family. Their personalities were so colorful and vivid that they leapt off of the pages and very easily became three-dimensional.
There is a romance, but it is slow-growing and subtle, kind of on the back side of the story. Jo wars with herself over obligation vs. love, but thankfully this does not overshadow the main story, which is the whodunit and also Jo fully realizing her own person.
The last one hundred pages or so are a nail-biting, page-turning feast. Perhaps the best part of this story, to me, is the way it all ended. I love what happened.
Jennifer Donnelly is an author that I’ve heard spoken about so many times in my circle of reading friends, and I’m excited that I finally picked up one of her books. I would love to move more of her work closer to the top of my to-read lists because this one impressed me so much. Historical mystery is not a type of book that I read very often, but I enjoyed the heck out of this one. It seems like a perfect fall read to me, but would fit in well at any time of the year.