Book Review: These Shallow Graves
Published By: Random House Delacorte
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Page Count: 496
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction, Mystery
Josephine Montfort is not your typical aristocratic female in the late 1800's. She yearns for a life in which she is free to make her own choices. More than anything Jo wants to be a reporter, but she knows her parents would never approve. They expect her to be the fine young lady of excellent breeding she was born to be which means marrying the right sort of man who can enhance the family prestige and having lots of babies. Jo finds this future to be a dreadful reality, but things begin to shift when her father turns up dead in his study from a gunshot wound to the head.
Jo rushes home to be with her mother during their time of mourning. After arriving from school back in New York City, Jo finds that she cannot wrap her mind around the fact that her father accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun. She knows that her father was more cautious and would never do something so irresponsible. Her worst fears come true when she overhears a reporter at her family's newspaper stating he believes Mr. Montfort committed suicide. Jo is outraged and confronts the handsome young man, Eddie, who dared speak ill of the dead. Jo and Eddie form an uneasy alliance to investigate Mr. Montfort's death and find themselves heading down a dangerous road full of secrets, murder, and forbidden passion.
I loved the historical details in this one. Jo is a woman before her time, but it's nice to see her fight against the traditional gender roles of her society. She also does everything she can to break the mold of her station in society. She has no desire to marry someone she doesn't love simply because their last name is prestigious. I cannot fathom having my parents choose my husband for me without considering my feelings about the matter. Women in this time period were not supposed to have intelligence or freedom. They were heavily controlled by their male relatives who arranged most of the details of their future. As much as I love history and would like to see various time periods in person, I don't think I could stomach having to function as a lesser person because of my gender.
Another aspect I enjoyed was the relationship between Jo and Eddie. These two drove one another crazy, but they also found a deep respect for the intellect and courage of the other. Neither of them backs down from a challenge. I found that they worked well together as they attempted to unravel the true nature of Mr. Montfort's death. This quest leads them down many twists and turns which uncovers family secrets and connections I never dreamed possible. The last several chapters completely took me by surprise. I had my suspicions about some of the twists, but others were well hidden and only revealed in the concluding chapters. The mystery aspect of this one is just as strong as the historical elements.
My only complaint with These Shallow Graves is the pacing. There were moments that were so intense I couldn't close the book, but other moments seemed to creep along. The tortoiselike moments disrupted my reading flow and kept me from rating this one a 5.
One Last Gripe: The ending was somewhat disappointing. I felt like the one thread I wanted tied together was left slightly unraveling.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved watching Jo interact with people beyond her typical social sphere.
First Sentence: "Trudy, be a dear and read these stories for me," said Jo Montfort, laying out articles for her school's newspaper on a tea table.
Favorite Character: Jo
Least Favorite Character: The man with the scar
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.