Fans of historical thrillers that invoke the enduring spirit of Jack the Ripper will have fun, and Zdrok leaves things open...

SPECTACLE

From the Spectacle-Zdrok series , Vol. 1

In Zdrok’s debut, a young woman with mysterious powers seeks to unmask a vicious killer terrorizing 19th-century Paris.

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes about Paris’ unclaimed dead bodies that are on display for public viewing for her column at Le Petit Journal: The more detailed her descriptions, the better. When she sees the body of a young girl who has been brutally slashed, she’s horrified. Placing her hand against the glass barrier, she has a terrifying vision of what seems to be the actual murder. The killer, dubbed “the Dark Artist,” isn’t finished, and the viciousness of the murders grows. Nathalie is intrigued to find out that her Aunt Brigitte, who is in an asylum for acting on her own visions, was a patient of an infamous doctor who offered supernatural powers through blood transfusions. Craving normalcy, Nathalie initially rejects her own powers, but when the Dark Artist slaughters someone very close to her, she resolves to put a stop to his reign of terror. Zdrok explores the universal fascination with death, set among the darker corners of 1887 Paris, and the very idea of the morgue viewings (to which parents brought their children) is chilling. All characters are assumed white. Grisly, plot driven—and very creepy.

Fans of historical thrillers that invoke the enduring spirit of Jack the Ripper will have fun, and Zdrok leaves things open for a sequel. (recommended reading) (Paranormal historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9968-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Only marginally intriguing.

REDEMPTION PREP

In a remote part of Utah, in a “temple of excellence,” the best of the best are recruited to nurture their talents.

Redemption Preparatory is a cross between the Vatican and a top-secret research facility: The school is rooted in Christian ideology (but very few students are Christian), Mass is compulsory, cameras capture everything, and “maintenance” workers carry Tasers. When talented poet Emma disappears, three students, distrusting of the school administration, launch their own investigation. Brilliant chemist Neesha believes Emma has run away to avoid taking the heat for the duo’s illegal drug enterprise. Her boyfriend, an athlete called Aiden, naturally wants to find her. Evan, a chess prodigy who relies on patterns and has difficulty processing social signals, believes he knows Emma better than anyone. While the school is an insidious character on its own and the big reveal is slightly psychologically disturbing, Evan’s positioning as a tragic hero with an uncertain fate—which is connected to his stalking of Emma (even before her disappearance)—is far more unsettling. The ’90s setting provides the backdrop for tongue-in-cheek technological references but doesn’t do anything for the plot. Student testimonials and voice-to-text transcripts punctuate the three-way third-person narration that alternates among Neesha, Evan, and Aiden. Emma, Aiden, and Evan are assumed to be white; Neesha is Indian. Students are from all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East.

Only marginally intriguing. (Mystery. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266203-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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