★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I picked These Shallow Graves on a whim – I was waiting for a while for something to come into the library, and this jumped out at me on NetGallery. I’m not sure what it was (the historical fiction not set in London, or a mystery spearheaded by a upstanding young lady), but I’m really glad I selected it from the bunch. Donnelly created the novel will style and finesse, based on a solid ground of research and the odd sprinkling of humour. These Shallow Graves is a textbook-perfect example of a historical fiction mystery.
The strange thing about reading the story was how my reaction altered over the course of reading. On numerous occasions I found myself questioning if the storyline was too obvious, with key clues revealed too early or sub-plots being too predictable. Phillip, for me, was an obviously suspicious character at the start, but Donnelly crafted it so that by the end I was doubting my own certainty, only for her to twist it back into my face. Ingenious. A stunning use of deceptive techniques, and hiding the evidence in plain sight!
My only hesitation about the novel came at the very start. The novel opened with a chapter that didn’t fit – it neither raised heightened intrigue about an upcoming scene nor introduced the characters/setting. Instead, it gave a sneak peak to a moment a significant way along, but added little to the synopsis provided by the blurb. Nevertheless, this was the only element not perfectly encapsulated in Donnelly’s work, and from this point the story develops incredibly.
For me, These Shallow Graves is of award-winning quality. Each scene is beautifully crafted, accurately researched and stunningly written. The novel may not have pizzazz, or present an element that can’t be found in another book, but it nails practically every element in writing a mystery novel, brought further to life by Donnelly’s deceptive style. It was a joy to read, and suitable for both middle grade and up!
Recommended for fans of:
- Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens
- Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
- The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
N.B.: This ebook was received from Netgallery in return for a reflective and honest review.