These Shallow Graves

Publisher: Random House/Delacorte

Year: 2015

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New York, 1890. A wealthy family. A deadly secret. A young woman with more to lose than she knows.

The Story

Josephine Montfort is one of the city’s most eligible heiresses, and as such, she understands the importance of doing what is expected. She knows that a suitable marriage and a comfortable life is what she should dream of—but her heart can’t help yearning for more.

But then Jo’s father dies violently, and her charmed life is suddenly shattered. His death appears to have been a tragic mistake, but Jo quickly discovers that the details of his death don’t quite add up. If her father’s death wasn’t accidental, could it have been suicide? Or worse….murder?

  • "Fast-paced and thrilling...a smart, insightful, timely depiction of a young woman poised on the brink of a new world after the shattering of another."

  • "Action-packed chapters propel this compelling mystery...[and] the injustices Donnelly highlights remain all too relevant."

    Publisher's WeeklySTARRED REVIEW
    • A Junior Library Guild Selection
    • Lincoln Award Nominee 2018
    • Charlotte Award Nominee 2018
    • Amelia Bloomer List
    • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
    • Chicago Public Library Best Teen Fiction

Jo is desperate to uncover the truth, but escaping her gilded cage is dangerous, and soon it’s hard to know who can be trusted. A chance encounter with handsome journalist Eddie Gallagher shows Jo just how dangerous digging up her family’s past will be—but some secrets can’t stay hidden, no matter how deep you bury them.


The Inspiration

This story started with a dead guy.

A man with weird markings on his face showed up in my head. He had long dark hair and was wearing clothes from another time.

He said nothing. He just lay in his coffin with his hands folded over his chest, decay beginning to creep.  And he wouldn’t leave. “Who are you,” I asked him. “What do you want?”

Finally, he opened his eyes, and he started to talk.  He introduced me to others: a teenaged reporter named Eddie, a thief lord called the Tailor; Oscar, a coroner’s assistant. And a girl. Her name was Josephine Montfort.

These Shallow GravesJo immediately intrigued me. I could tell she was wealthy and educated from the way she dressed and spoke. And yet, something wasn’t quite right. I sensed that her porcelain coolness was only a veneer, and that underneath it, a fierce intelligence burned. In her gray eyes, I glimpsed a restless longing.

As my characters do, Jo made me work to get to know her. As she labored to uncover the dead man’s story, I labored to uncover hers.

I learned that she’d been born into an old and distinguished New York family, and that she led a life of privilege. Jo was fortunate in many ways, but she didn’t have the one thing she wanted the most: freedom.

So few young women of the 1890s did. Poor girls were expected to work, as early as possible. Wealthy ones were expected to marry, as well as possible. As I researched These Shallow Graves, I met many of these young women.

I met Edith Jones, brilliant and misunderstood, and watched her marry the wrong man and live the wrong life—until she found the right life, and became Edith Wharton.

I met eighteen-year-old Lizzie Schauer who was arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to medical examinations to determine whether or not she was of good character – all for the “crime” of being an unaccompanied female walking alone in the city at night.

I met Consuelo Vanderbilt, a teenage heiress, forced to marry the Duke of Marlborough, a man she didn’t love, to satisfy her domineering mother’s social ambitions.

I met scores of teenage girls for whom education was only a dream—and the factory floor or scullery or sweatshop, a reality.

Edith eventually broke free. Consuelo, too. I doubt poor Lizzie, or the scullery girls, ever did.

I so badly wanted Jo to. And thanks to the dead man, she finally did. He gave Jo her life, and by the end of the book, he gave me my peace. He stopped haunting me and went on his way.

Jo’s on her way now, too. And I can’t wait to see where life takes her.

Buy These Shallow Graves at,  Barnes and Noble, or your local independent bookstore.


    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      I would LOVE to write a sequel — I miss all those characters (especially Oscar!) so much! BTW, I’m giving away a signed hardcover of These Shallow Graves — head over to my Instagram page for instructions on how to enter!

  1. Maeve says:

    This is a perfect book for me, with a great mixture of all my favorite tropes and genres
    I’ve seen many of your comments saying there will be a sequel in the future and I have no doubt you’ll come up with an amazing plot
    Can’t wait to see Jo’s life in the newsroom, living with Sarah (hope Oscar woos her over) and her growing relationship with Eddie and I hope to see her and him working stories together again
    And I’m excited for your interest in Oscar because I loved him as a character too and he never failed to make me laugh
    I really love the Jo, Eddie, Oscar trio so hope to see more of that
    Good luck and thank you for blessing us all with this amazing story full of suspense and thrill!

  2. Katelyn Bonk says:

    Just finished this book and I couldn’t out it down. I’ve been a huge fan of your books ever since I read A Northern Light. Especially since I have spent every summer in the Inlet/Old Forge area since I was a kid. This book though captivated me. I love Jo and everything she represents. But I also love Oscar, Sarah, Fay, and of course Eddie. I really hope there is a sequel to this because I need to know more about not only Jo and Eddie, but Oscar’s future in Forensics. ?

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      YES!! I am dying to learn what’s next for all these characters … especially Oscar!! I love him! I have a few things on my plate right now, but I’d love to get back to the TSG story one day! ?

      • Clancey Aaron Stewart says:

        I’m super excited to hear there will hopefully be a sequel one day. I happened upon A Northen Light years ago ad a teen and recently was at a friend’s house browsing her bookshelves and discovered this book and immediately took it home an haven’t put it down since. I was disappointed at not knowing the endings for Eddie and jo or Oscar. However I loved that jo and Sarah are now roommates. its so wonderful! I hope we will get to check in on Fay and Elenor later too!

  3. hessa says:

    hi! i really loved tsg so much! once i started to read it,i couldnt put the boom down,i hope one day you will be able to write a sequel since im very interested what happens next,but i would really like to know if eddie and jo get back together ! i really miss their relationship 🙁

  4. Trisha says:

    Dear Jennifer,
    I really loved reading These Shallow Graves! Honestly, it’s one of my favorite novels and once I started reading it, it was so hard to put down! I love murder mysteries and this book was awesome!! It’s amazing how you made the story flow so well that I was completely hooked. I really hope you consider writing a sequel to it, there are so many possibilities as to where the character’s lives will lead them :)) Eddie was probably my favorite character, but Jo is such an inspiring person too!


    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thanks, Trisha! I would love to write a TSG sequel one day. There’s so much those characters are going to get up to — especially Oscar — and I’d love to visit with them again!!

  5. Ilaria says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’m an Italian girl and I love your books so much. I just finished reading “these shallow graves”, and I loved the history and characters very much, I already miss them. Now I absolutely want to know when I can read the sequel, I want to know about Jo’s life as a reporter, about Oscar and Sara as coroners, and Eddy… I’d like to read about them, all involved in a new exciting investigation. Please tell me that there is a sequel, as you let us understand in the final notes of the book, and if there is it, when can we read it ?!

  6. Joanna says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I just finished reading These Shallow Graves and I loved everything about it, the setting, the characters, the story had me hooked. I read A Northern Light about 10 years ago, and I never forgot your name, so when it was time to find a book to read during quarantine I searched your name and found, among others, These Shallow Graves. The summary intrigued me and I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down, and now I want more. The way the story ended, it set up so many more interesting stories. I’m wondering if you would ever write more about these characters? I fully anticipate reading this book again some day and I definitely want to check out more of your work in the meantime.

  7. Kaylyn says:

    I read the whole book and I loved it so much, I never thought I would thought actually want to keep reading a book because all other books would get me bored but These Shallow Graves made me want to keep reading this book, it made me realize that there are books that could interest me, I really hope that you would make a second book of These Shallow Graves I really want to know there afterlife for all the characters how they ended up living. Thank you for making and this book and it will be my favorite book
    -Your newest biggest fan

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you, Kaylyn: I would love to do a sequel one day — I really miss those characters (especially Oscar!!)

  8. Zoe says:

    Hi Jennifer I just finished reading this book for the 2nd time and I really hope that you would be able to come and write a sequel for this story in the future! Your ending to the book left me so curious to find out what happens next! It is my favorite book and I would love for the amazing story to continue.
    Thank you!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thanks for the nice note, Zoe! I would LOVE to do a TSG sequel one day. You know who I’m really curious to follow? Oscar! I think he has some stories to tell …

  9. Lara Endres says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    I just finished reading this book again and it felt like coming home. Jo’s character inspires me a lot. She seems to have it all and yet there’s a longing inside of her for more, to do good and to follow her passions and unlike many she is brave enough to follow her instincts. As I have that same longing inside me I can relate to her a lot.
    Every time I pick up a book of yours it’s a given that I’ll spend the next few days curled up on my sofa lost in the pages and in your words. I love the way you can make these periods that have long passed come back to life. I love how every book of yours showcases a glimmer of hope especially for women in these dark times. And I love the fierce heart and courage of every female protagonist, especially Jo’s, Fiona’s and India’s. These women were caught in the cage of society and the evil in their lives. The odds were always against them and yet they kept fighting, stayed true to their believes and somehow managed to keep their spirit and passionate nature alive.
    Another thing I enjoy is that you always have these amazing smaller characters like Oscar and Nicholas Soames who are so intriguing and who could easily fill their own book.
    I hope you never lose your way with words and that you will have many more stories to tell so I can keep getting lost in the worlds you create and that there’ll always be another Josephine Montfort to root for.
    Thank you!


  10. Olivia Giovanelli says:

    Hello Jennifer,
    I just finished reading this book for the third time, and I’ve felt really inspired (but at the same time really sad!)! Jo, Eddie, Oscar, Sarah, Fay and Eleanor… Everyone and everything is just special! I really hope in a sequel!
    Thank you for this amazing novel

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thanks, Olivia! I’d love to write a sequel one day. I am dying to know what’s next for everyone … especially Oscar!!

  11. Kinley Woitas says:

    I read this book years ago and I still enjoy it. It was the perfect mix of suspense, drama, violence, and romance. I wish there was a second book!!!

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Kinley! I would love to write a sequel one day (I miss them all, especially Oscar!) — just not sure when I’ll be able to!

  12. Anna says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    Just wanted to say how much I loved These Shallow Graves. I was wondering what you think happened to the characters afterwards. If Eddie became a famous reporter. Or maybe Jo did. I wonder a lot about her. I’d like to think that she actually wrote about all those girls she wanted to write about and managed to help them. And okay, I really would like to know if you ever pictured them getting back together or if maybe they found happiness with other people or by themselves. (Not that they need someone else to make them happy, but that they, you know, found someone to share their lives with along the line.)

    And Fay and Eleanor’s story was so bittersweet, It makes me so sad knowing that they could never be reunited with Stephen, but I’m also happy that they found each other.

    Thank you so much for an amazing story.

    • Jennifer Donnelly says:

      Thank you, Anna – this note makes my day! ?

      As for your question, YES I absolutely wonder what became of them! Especially Oscar — I am very intrigued by him and I’m guessing he has some stories to tell! I really hope to revisit them one day; when I do, I’ll post it here!!

      • Erica says:

        And I’ll be waiting in anticipation for that day! Jo’s wit, gumption, and heart make her a very difficult character to forget! I can only imagine the things she’s seen and stories she’s told with the help of Eddie and Oscar!

    • Theresa says:

      I’m Theresa and I’m from Poland so forgive me my mistakes. My best friend is you fan and this book means a lot fo her. Also soon she will be celebrating her 16th birthday and I am asking you for a favor I want to send her greetings from you I hope you send her some I think this will be her childhood dream come true and in two years she will be a young adult it’s one of her last chances. Carolina really loves this book and your creation. I read this book too and I am really impressed with you writing styleand ability to create such an interesting plot.
      I greet you warmly, Theresa

      • Jennifer Donnelly says:

        Happy Happy 16th Birthday, Carolina! I hope you have the most wonderful day, and wish you all the best this year, and beyond! Keep reading, keep growing, and keep wonderful friends like Theresa in your life! Xo, Jennifer

  13. Emily says:

    I just finished reading These Shallow Graves for the third time. It is one of my all time favourite novels. I have completely fell in love with the characters and setting and I crave more. Will you ever write a sequel? If you haven’t given it much thought, I do hope you seriously consider it. I also want to thank you for dedicating your life to writing, your books have changed my life and inspired me. Never stop writing.

    One of your biggest fans, Emily

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