Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

“To go to the morgue was to poke the grim reaper in the ribs, to tell him he was riveting. Because if he was riveting, he wasn’t scary. Death was for other people.”

spectacle cover

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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.

DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



TW: murder, gore, self-harm, suicidal ideation, other suicide mentions, domestic abuse mention

Having read this on the heels of Truly Devious and The Vanishing Stair, I was definitely in the mood for a murder mystery, all primed and ready for sniffing out suspects. I had the sleuth bug, the mystery itch, the NEED for some good old murder solving.

This may not have been the place to go looking for it in a rush.

It wasn’t that Spectacle was bad so much as it was slow. Some folks like me are probably willing to stick with it, but I suspect a lot of people would probably be unhappy with the pacing. It’s almost halfway into the book before Nathalie, the main character, starts expanding her network of who to ask for help, and starts collecting more and more evidence about the murders.

It’s a bit of a character-driven book in some ways, too, not a plot-driven one. Nathalie wrestling with the consequences and origins of her power to see visions of recently committed murders takes up a good chunk of the book, and to be fair? If I was sixteen and discovered I could see how someone died violently, that’d mess me up and leave me in a panicked, second-guessing limbo, too. Especially when the people around me are being evasive or insensitive to things. That doesn’t help either.

And yet I wouldn’t call this a character-driven book, because Nathalie is the only character who felt like anything more than shallow. Simone and Agnés MAYBE feel like they’ve got some life to them, but Christophe, Nathalie’s parents, and even the antagonist feel extremely flat. In a murder mystery, I should either suspect someone or fear for them as the next victim, and more often than not, it was a little hard to care.

And the antagonist should definitely scare me. I should worry for the main character, be concerned about their connection to the killer especially once the killer starts clearly targeting them, and…I wasn’t? I just didn’t get a strong sense of menace. Just gruesomeness and a dash of greed.

On the other hand, I am extremely interested in Nathalie’s powers, because the ending implies there will be another book, and one that likely focuses on those powers, which are fascinating. I won’t get too into it, just to avoid spoilers, but I will say that Nathalie has something unusual up her sleeve, something that’s barely understood and has the potential to be both useful and dangerous. It’s intriguing enough that I’m likely to read the next book, just to see where it goes and what becomes of Nathalie and the people around her. I have some hope that it’ll be stronger on the character depth front, especially if it moves away from the murder mystery angle, and that it would reach outward from just Paris of 1887. We’ll have to wait and see, but still: I’ll keep some hope on hand.

Anyways, if murder mysteries are your kind of thing, mixed in with historical Paris, journalism, and a touch of fantasy that’s laced with science, Spectacle might be the book for you! It’s out tomorrow, February 12th, so hurry and get your last-second pre-orders in now if you’re looking to buy it!

And once you’ve done that, you should totally tell me what you think. 😉

0 thoughts on “Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

  1. I appreciate your honesty. More often then not I find that I’m not intimidated by the villains I read about. Whenever the characters are scared by them and I’m not, it just doesn’t seem to resonate and the scenes aren’t as powerful as they could be if I had found that emotional connection. Great review!

  2. I have this one vaguely on my to-watch-out-for-list but I always get a bit worried about historical fiction because it tends to fall flat for me 😂I don’t know why! I grew up on it so maybe I just had too much haha. But I do like this author a lot, so I want to try it. Not having a good sense of threat/menace from the antagonist is a worry though, for a murder mystery. 😂

    1. It’s totally possible that a lot of folks will like this and I was just not the right person. If you give it a shot, I hope you enjoy it!!

      But yeahhhh, it was a bit of a problem. 😬 It’s a murder mystery. I should feel a little more scared than I did of a murderer. A serial killer, really.

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