Monday, 23 November 2015

Review: These Shallow Graves - Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, published by Hot Key Books on 27th October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
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.

'These Shallow Graves' is a Victorian murder mystery, featuring feisty young heroine Josephine Montfort, or Jo as she likes to be known.  Jo's father dies at the beginning of the story and she takes it into her own hands to find out the truth about his death, helped along the way by handsome journalist Eddie. 

The setting for the story is New York, 1890.  I thought that Jennifer Donnelly did a really good job of incorporating a sense of the atmosphere of the period.  Women did not have many rights beyond working if they were poor and marrying if they were rich.  Jo subverts the line between the two by coming from a wealthy and privileged background, but she also wants to pursue her own dreams which are far greater than simply being a wife.  She is an interesting heroine because she is incredibly ambitious for the time and refuses to stop throwing herself into the path of danger if it means she will discover answers to the elusive questions the story poses.   

I enjoyed the way that Jo peeled away the layers of mystery and intrigue to gradually piece together the truth about her father and what really happened to him.  I love a good murder mystery and this one kept me on my toes. 

This was quite a long book at nearly 500 pages.  I found it quite slow in places at the beginning and I'll admit that I nearly gave up on reading it at one point but it picked up considerably as the pieces of the mystery began to come together.  I do think that the plot could have been tighter and there were some elements which didn't altogether work for me but there was a lot I liked to.  I don't feel that this was a very memorable read but if you enjoy historical murder mysteries then it's definitely worth a try. 

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