Ever since the accident left Maman unable to work, 16-year-old Nathalie Baudin has been earning money penning "the daily morgue report" for Le Petit Journal. Nathalie and other Parisians stand in long lines to cluster eventually at "the viewing pane," where they can see the latest murder victim. Two weeks into her tenure, Nathalie accidentally touches the glass and is transported to "another place" where she sees the murder occur, "silent[ly] and in reverse." Her reaction to this experience is witnessed by "the fetching young morgue worker" Monsieur Gagnon, but she's too shaken to respond honestly to his inquiries.
Nathalie's friend Simone urges her to go to the police, but Nathalie is scared they'll think she's "unhinged." Nathalie's parents and her Aunt Brigitte were subjects in a series of experiments by now-disgraced Dr. Henard in which patients were given blood transfusions to grant them "magical powers." The procedure, once seen as "a promising new discovery," is now considered dangerous. Nathalie's Aunt Brigitte is proof of this: she is in an asylum, unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality. As the gruesome body count rises, the "Dark Artist" killer gets up close and personal, and Nathalie must decide whether to run from her visions or allow them to lead her to the murderer.
Jodie Lynn Zdrok has created an eminently readable, unapologetically macabre period piece that evokes the dark mystery of Jack the Ripper-era serial murders. Featuring a strong and likable heroine in Nathalie--who's proud to be the first woman "of any age" to write for Le Petit Journal--the power of Spectacle "is real, beautiful, and devastating," and should be especially welcome to fans of Libba Bray's Diviners novels. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI