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February 02, 2016

These Shallow Graves

These Shallow GravesThese Shallow Graves

By: Jennifer Donnelly

In 1890, Jo (Josephine) Montfort is a student at Miss Sparkwell’s School for Young Ladies. Like all wealthy young women, Jo is expected to finish school and marry a wealthy bachelor. Her family already has Bram Aldrich, a likeable, kind and very wealthy bachelor picked out for her. However, Jo doesn’t want to get married. She wants to be a newspaper columnist and investigate social injustices like her idol, Nellie Bly.  Her father, Charles Montfort, owns a newspaper and a shipping line and is one of the wealthiest men in New York City.  Jo’s life is turned upside down when she receives news that her father has died and she leaves school to go home for the funeral. They said that he accidentally killed himself while cleaning his gun. She doesn’t believe this and then overhears talk that Charles Montfort committed suicide. That can’t be true, either.  Soon Jo is partnering with Eddie Gallagher, a handsome but poor newspaper reporter who works at her father’s paper, to uncover the truth about her father’s death.  Jo is practically engaged to Bram but it is the unsuitable Eddie who makes her heart race.  Bribing her maid to help her, Jo begins sneaking out at night with Eddie searching for information. Eddie thinks that he will get the scoop of a lifetime and Jo just wants the truth. Despite Eddie’s pleas for Jo to stay home where she will be safe, they begin to investigate the dangerous slums and docks of New York City, and a naïve Jo has her eyes opened about life and her family’s own dark secrets.

Jo is a smart, strong female character who is straining against the constraints of her wealthy life. Sometimes secrets are better off staying buried and readers will be anxious to see but how much she is willing to risk and lose in order to learn the truth. This is a fast paced mystery/thriller with an atmospheric setting, a love triangle and great characters. Recommended for grades 9-up.

Review By: Jan Bridges