ARC Review: Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

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My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/ with some Paranormal aspects
Pages: 368
Pacing: Slow to Normal Pacing
Publisher: Tor Teen
Published: February 12th, 2019

 

Trigger Warnings: Violence against women, Graphic details about the violence/murders, and the public viewing dead bodies at a sort of side show exhibit.

 

A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris. Paris, 1887.  Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day’s new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered–from the perspective of the murderer himself.When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie’s search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie’s strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer’s identity–and she’ll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.   Synopsis by Goodreads.  

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Nathalie was never afraid of the dark, even as a child. If anything, she wanted to know what was in it.

Oh how I wanted to love this one.  It was right up my alley – historical fiction, strong feminist character and a cool mystery.  Unfortunately, this one feel a little flat in places for me.

Spectacle starts off very intriguing.  Set in Paris, in the 1880s, there is a man running around killing young women ala Ripper style that the press have named The Dark Artist.   Our main protagonist, Nathalie works for a newspaper company, writing the morgue column (dreary much!).  The morgue happens to be displaying dead people (including the murder victims) for all the world to see.  Kind of like a side-show attraction.  Nathalie frequents this place often to write her column and when she comes face-to-face with the first victim of the killer, she feels the sudden urge to touch the glass – showing her a vision of the murder taking place.  Obviously, she is scared of what she saw and if it’s even real and what’s more it seems that she can’t figure out who the killer is, but the killer just might know who she is.

I first want to say that I did enjoy this book.  I probably went in with too high of expectations because I love this type of story.  It had lots of potential and lots going for it.  The main character was a strong female – she was 16 and talked much older but that is pretty normal in YA books, so that didn’t bother me.  She’s inquisitive, brave and ahead of her time and I really enjoyed her as a character.  I also loved that their are not one, but two different strong female/female friendships.  The friendships are beautiful to read and they weren’t about boys.  I love seeing more and more of this in YA – I really do hope it becomes the norm, because it’s wonderful to read and really connects me to the characters so much more.

Another wonderful thing was the author’s beautiful writing and descriptions.   I could imagine Paris in that time because of her lovely writing and there is enough talk about French pastries that I had to go get a snack while I was reading (ok, a couple snacks, but who’s counting!).  I also loved that the author chose to throw some French in here and there, it just really adds to the atmosphere and getting lost in it.

Ok, so what was my issue with the book? The pacing – the pacing wasn’t just slow, it was repetitive.  I felt like I spent half the book, at least, reading about the main character not accepting her ability.  It really slowed the story down and didn’t offer a ton, it should’ve been wrapped up quicker, in my opinion, or we should’ve been getting more in-depth useful information while she went through her whole ordeal.  Although, many of the descriptions are well written and beautiful – the back stories and learning about key information (such as experiments) weren’t really fleshed out enough. I wanted more of that type of writing and less French pastries.

There was also a very small love interest story that seemed a little pointless, but maybe it comes into play more in the second book.  The mystery was interesting, but I wanted some kind of cool twist, which didn’t happen at all.  I do think that the end set up the second story to be much more exciting though and hopefully answer a ton of unanswered questions.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and will likely try the second one.  I had no idea this book wasn’t a stand-alone when I went into it but I’m fine with that.  This is Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s debut novel and I think her writing is very strong and certainly an author to watch.  If you like stories like Stalking Jack the Ripper then you might enjoy this one.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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