Published by Hot Key Books on October 27, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Mystery, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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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.
Read about what? Why, only the murder of one of the richest men in New York, Charles Montfort! Or that’s what his daughter, Jo, believes. It was supposed to be an “accident,” but evidence proves otherwise… So what else can an aspiring journalist in the 1890’s do? Investigate it, of course!
Jo is such a delightful character to read about. Although society expects her to marry into a respectable family and live happily ever after, she’s dreaming of bigger things. Jo wants to become a newspaper reporter, and write about the things that don’t get coverage on. She’s headstrong, curious, and courageous – a mix that just leads to exciting adventures.
“I did it because I want to inform my readers. Because I wish to draw back the veil that hides the injustices that surround us,” Jo said, her voice rising. “We who have means and a voice must use them to help those who have neither. Yet how can we help them if we don’t even know about them? And how can we know about them if no one writes about them? Is it so wrong to want to know things?”
She’s definitely an innocent and naive starry-eyed girl in the beginning of the book, though. Jo is very sheltered and doesn’t understand about brothels and prostitutes and the like. This all changes shortly after her father’s death, when she hears a reporter exclaim how it couldn’t have been an accident. From there, Jo tackles the mystery of what happened to her father, and why.
The mystery aspect of the book was a mix between predictable and twist-y. I’ll know the general outcome, but the events that lead up to it would be full of surprises. I quite like the balance! In addition, there are some events near the end that just got me going, “Whoa!” and “For realll?!” the whole time. It was thrilling and had me engaged; you would’ve seen me eagerly flipping the pages to see what would happen next.
I really enjoy how the author writes the scenes like a movie. The transitions would sometimes jump forward a little, where you would be caught up in the next scene. I highly enjoyed reading it because it’s like a slight cliffhanger for each chapter that doesn’t get resolved until you read further into the next. I know it may not work with some books, but in this one it was absolutely perfect and worked with the atmosphere.
I think what really stood out the most for me was the growth that Jo goes through and the implications Donnelly raises about the women during the times. They’re expected to do their husband’s bidding and smile along, even if they don’t want to. Jo is in a constant struggle between being that kind of girl and not disappointing her family, or following her heart for the newspaper reporter Eddie, who she has no prospects with. But man, oh man, is that a tough choice.
I simply loved the romance, which never became a dominant part of the plot, nor was it underdeveloped and spontaneous. It had a steady pace that didn’t seem too fast or too slow, and compatible characters that work so well together in uncovering the mystery. Eddie’s character also had so many dimensions, and I loved exploring this flawed, striking character that worked hard to get to where he’s at. The romance was great, but I have to mention the unlikely (and beautiful) female companionship that developed in this book. It was with yet another character who had many secrets to unravel.
When starting this book, Jo is unaware of most of the negative aspects in her world yet still aspires to become an advocate for those whose voices aren’t heard. While finding out the purpose behind her father’s murder, she meets an eccentric cast of characters and goes through new, thrilling experiences that open her eyes to a new world – and creates an even stronger will to follow her dreams.
With writing that will suck you in until the last pages, These Shallow Graves highlight the growth of a strong-willed girl in the 1890’s whose father’s murder acts as an impetus for her to discover new things about the world she’s lived in, and herself. This book gives a mystery full of twists and turns, a romance that pulls on your heartstrings, and characters that you just want to read more about – even when the final pages of the book have been read.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you to Hot Key Books/Five Mile Press for providing a review copy!