These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly (Advance Reader’s Copy)

I like that this story is set in 1800’s New York, during the time of the “Captains of Industry,” when families like the Astors and the Vanderbilts sought advantageous marriages to “preserve bloodlines.” Proper young ladies went to finishing schools, planned elaborate weddings, and then retired to a life of philanthropic galas, teas, and child bearing.

The heroine is the daughter of an upper class family in New York. The men are involved in shipping around the world, such as the spice trade. She is at a finishing school but writes for the school newspaper. She dreams of researching and writing real stories. She researches a story on poor women working in the mills. The school faculty is scandalized and won’t allow her to publish her story. As she says, they would rather publish insipid poems about kittens than anything pertaining to the reality of the working class.

She returns to New York when her father is found dead in his study, shot through the head. Word goes out that it was an accident, but she doesn’t believe it. She talks with the police and meets a young Irish newspaper man willing to help her delve deeper into the mystery. At first they think it was a suicide, then perhaps a murder.

Her research must be carried out in secret, pretending that she is visiting the library. Sometimes she bribes her maid to get into her bed and pretend to be asleep so she can sneak out at night. Her investigations take her into the poor parts of town, to the docks, and the offices of her father and his partners at the import firm. She receives an education in reality, making the acquaintance of seamen, prostitutes, madams, pickpockets and lock pickers.

In the course of her investigations, she finds herself attracted to the newspaper man. All her life she was expected to marry a man from her social class who is more a friend than a romantic prospect. She needs to examine her life. What does she want out of life? Something worthwhile to do? An occupation? Perhaps poverty and passion versus high society, stability, and boredom. Which will she choose?

As the story progresses, she is drawn deeper and deeper into danger and mystery as the shipping firm’s partners are murdered one by one.

This book is appropriate for teens who enjoy mystery, daring do, and a little romance on the side.

Amazon Book Store, These Shallow Graves 482 pages.

The book will be released October 27, 2015.


About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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