It’s time for a little posh Victorian era MUUUURDER mystery.
Although I confess I thought this was going to be about zombies. It is not. No that’s the book called Shallow Graves and I think we can forgive my confusion, right?? Moving forward! THESE Shallow Graves is a period drama + murder mystery + forbidden romance + forerunning of forensics + DEAD PEOPLE. I did enjoy myself! Although it’s not a favourite because (A) I’m not a big historical fiction fan, and (B) the length was tedious. But you know what?! Murder mysteries and a smattering of sass will always win me over.
“Lucky isn’t the first word that comes to mind,” Eddie grumbled. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m a grave robber now. And so are you two.”
“Technically, we’re not. Not unless we take Kinch with us. We’re disturbing a grave, certainly, but not robbing it.”
“Really? That’s so great, Oscar. I feel much better.”
- JO WAS AN ADMIRABLE PROTAGONIST. Well, that is, as soon as she got over her super irritating phase. She’s a very entitled, wealthy girl who knows nothing. Less than Jon Snow probably. YOU KNOW NOTHING, JO MONTFORT. But at the same time she (A) wasn’t too proud to learn, (B) she tried very hard, and (C) her naivety was actually hilarious at times.
Totally Accurate Transcript Of Conversations:
EDDIE: You can’t be in this dangerous part of town. The people are…unsavoury.
JO: Oh I’m fine. In fact a lady offered me to work for her with her other girls and a kind man tried to give me money.
EDDIE: *has panic attack and dies*
Jo was really toffy though, and she made stupid mistakes and jumped to conclusions ALL THE TIME. No wait. She basically pole-vaulted to conclusions. I did like her, but I’m not naming my firstborn after her, let’s just say.
“I’d hardly call this gallivanting. And besides, I couldn’t stay at the party. It was too dangerous. I nearly died.”
- MURDER MYSTERY. Because yaaaas, murder! Jo’s father has an “accident with a gun” and she overhears a dude at the newspaper say it was murder. JO TRANSFORMS INTO SHERLOCK. It’s wonderful. There is stabby stuff, like proper polite stabby stuff. If you’re going to attempt to stab toffy lords and ladies in the early 1900s, then please do it with the proper etiquette omg.
- THERE IS SASS. Which I am a huge fan of. I wouldn’t say the dialogue is the sassiest I’ve ever read. But there are quips! And I laughed out loud several times!
- OTHER RANDOM THINGS I LOVED:
- It actually includes details on the beginning of what is now forensic science! And I mean DETAILS. Let’s talk about why the body is discolouring grotesquely yay!
- (That is a very serious “yay”, okay??? I’m interested in that kind of stuff.)
- Oscar is the forensic doctor and he is wonderful. He tries to flirt with medical students by talking about pus. #OscarNailsIt
- Eddie (the dashing roguish journalist love-interest) is adorable and I loved his sass and the way he pretended he didn’t care about Jo and then FREAKED OUT if she got into any sort of possible problems.
- It also features awesome female friendships.
- Plot twists!! I was definitely surprised several times, which is excellent news for a murder mystery.
- People actually did die. Although not graphically so don’t worry about getting blood splatters on your delicate constitution, but STILL. I like it when books don’t pretend to be murdery but actually do it.
- There is sexism, of course, because it’s the 20th century. BUT IT DEBUNKS THEM. This is how you write sexism in historical fiction!! Jo smacks-down on several people. She also uses very clever ways to manipulate situations where people are say “oh let’s talk about the weather because there are weak fragile women in the room and we cannot upset them” and she’ll take none of that.
“Every time I see you, it’s an adventure, Jo Montfort. You’re a very unusual girl,” he said as she got out of the cab.
“Oh, not really. Most girls are a lot like me. Wanting answers to their questions,” Jo replied. “They usually don’t seek them at the morgue, however. I’ll give you that.”
- HELLO, MY NAME IS CONFUSION. The mystery involved (A) many secondary characters, (C) who were all related help???? and (B) a million info dumps, and (D) it was just very twisty and complex WHICH IS FINE AND GOOD but I 100% confess to being lost. Like, the whole time.
- AND THE ROMANCE WAS VERY PREDICTABLE. Hello rich girl is destined to marry a very rich lord but ooooooooh she sees a reporter boy WITH NO STATUS AT ALL and it’s loooooooove. It wasn’t a bad romance at all. It was adorable! I loved Eddie and Jo. There was insta-attraction, but not insta-love and I loved how their relationship developed. BUT I’VE READ THIS 9483 TIMES BEFORE. #bored
- OTHER RANDOM DISLIKABLE MOMENTS:
- Very very very very convenient plot twists.
- Like literally all the characters ended up being crucial to the plot. Is that even logical or realistic? #no That random MILKMAN?? HE’S A BIG DEAL. (I mean, not really the milkman, but you get my drift.)
- While the mystery wasn’t predictable for me, all the characters and their actions were and I found it kind of tedious.
- The writing is historical-fiction so YES it’s all pish-posh tish-tosh (shhh that’s a thing) and it just generally isn’t my thing. But that’s wholeheartedly a “IT’S ME NOT YOU” thing. (Plus I think the writing was a good representation of the time! I just personally found it hard to be glued to.)
I definitely dub it satisfying murdery mystery.
There’s a bit o’ grave digging, sneaking, asylums, attacks, and don’t forget the occasional sassy quip that is just so ON POINT. Sure I got lost in the mystery (I am a deluded grape generally though) and I did feel like I’ve read this sort of story before because of the predictability….buuuuut. IT WAS GOOD STILL. No zombies, sadly too, but I’ll forgive it because I’m magnanimous like that.
“Anyone hungry?” Oscar asked. “The Portman’s not far. I bet they’d scare up a sandwich for us.”
“How can you even think about food after where we’ve just been?” Jo asked.
“Dead people always make me hungry,” Oscar said. “Once you’re in the ground, there’s no more noodle kugel for you. No more roast chicken or potato latkes. So eat, drink, and be merry, I say. But especially eat.”
THANK YOU TO HOT KEY BOOKS FOR THE REVIEW-COPY. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly was published May, 2016
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.
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