Cover Image: The Spectacular

The Spectacular

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Member Reviews

Another spectacular Fiona Davis story. Great depiction of the era and historical events. I learned so much about the Rockettes. The development of the main character was deliciously satisfying.

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I can never go wrong with a book by Fiona Davis. I read her books as soon as I can. Loved this one about Radio City Music Hall. An iconic novel about a New York icon.

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This page-turner plunges readers into midcentury New York City and the lives of the Rockettes. But it's much more than a book about a dancer. Marion Brooks is desperate to break free from her overbearing father, and an unexpected opportunity to join the Rockettes seems like her ticket out. But when tragedy strikes, she finds herself thrown into an investigation to track down the Big Apple Bomber before he can strike again. With believable, three-dimensional characters and Davis's trademark exquisite research, this one won't let you go.

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Fiona Davis's books are always spectacular! I absolutely love diving in to see what forgotten nugget of NYC history I will learn about. As with the majority of her books, this one was fast paced. There was an intensity to both the characters and the plot. Reading about the early history of the Rockettes and learning about the vigorous schedule was amazing. I had never heard of the bombing before and found the dismissiveness of the early investigators deplorable. Marion was a no nonsense woman and committed herself fully to everything she signed up for. A wonderful historical thriller.

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This should be one of this summer's must-reads. Loved the premise, the mystery, and the characters. Life as a Rockette was fascinating to learn about!

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What a roller coaster ride! Davis has done it once again. I'm a huge fan and this book doesn't disappoint.
Marion Brooks is trapped by the thought of an ordinary life, marrying, having children and succumbing to a world of subservience. So, when given the opportunity, thanks to her talent. she joins the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. Simultaneously, there is a rash of bombings in New York City and the tension begins.
The era is captured beautifully, and Davis poignantly expresses the mood of the population where terror reigns. I was especially impressed. by the detailed research that made the Rockettes come alive. It takes a great author to achieve that, and the success is evident.
This book had all the elements of a great read. Loved it!

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One of the big reasons I enjoy historical fiction is the opportunity it presents to learn something new. In The Spectacular, author Fiona Davis introduced me to “The Big Apple Bomber” who terrorized New York City for 16 years in the 1940s – 50s, setting off bombs in many of its landmarks, including Radio City Music Hall (twice). I also got a backstage pass to the Rockettes in their heyday. In typical stellar fashion, she has managed to merge the two when her female protagonist, 19-year-old Marian Brooks, auditions for the precision dance troupe on a whim and is accepted. Against her overly-protective father’s and soon-to-be fiancé’s wishes, she moves from her comfortable home in Westchester County to New York where she rehearses and performs 4 daily shows for 21 days straight with just a week off before the cycle begins again.

On a surprise double date, she meets a young psychiatrist, Peter Griggs, who surprises her with his incredible insight into her upbringing and personality. At first glance, she isn’t impressed with either his looks or his personality and doesn’t expect to see him again. However, when a bomb goes off during a performance of the Christmas Spectacular (a show I’ve been privileged to see), her connection to the tragedy and the police’s failure to catch the bomber cause her to solicit Peter’s help in finding him before he strikes again. As they and a reluctant police force work together with the clock counting down, a mutual respect and attraction is formed. It will take Marion’s courage to stand out in a performance that demands uniformity to catch a killer.

As in all her books, Davis uses a dual timeline to offer perspective. In this case, it’s Marion at age 55 as she prepares to sell her family home and reluctantly agrees to attend a Rockettes reunion. We learn what she’s done in the intervening yearsm and she also uses the opportunity to tell readers about how Peter’s work is the origin of criminal psychological profiling. I couldn’t help but think of the show “Criminal Minds” as I read it. Davis is undoubtedly one of the reigning queens of dual timeline historical fiction and fans of the genre will love this one. Highly recommended.

I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Dutton in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are completely my own.

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Thank you to netgalley.com for this ARC.

I am a big Fiona Davis fan and read all of her books. This one did not disappoint. Loved the setting of Radio City Music Hall (which I've been too and also done a backstage tour as a kid) as well as the time period of the 1950's NYC. This was heartbreaking at times, but also fun at times. Loved learning about the Rockettes, a little more about Creedmore Psychiatric Center, which I pass every day on my way to work.

I highly recommend this book - definitely a page turner! Can't wait to see what's next from her.

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I have read all of Fiona Davis's previous books and this is my favorite so far . Historical fiction that tells the story of an independant 19 year old dancer ,Marion ,who auditions and makes the famous rockettes. The family issues , the "Big apple bomber " and the Radio City Music Hall all combine to make a page turning novel.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review

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Fiona Davis continues her amazing tales of historical buildings in New York with this new story of a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. Marion has longed dreamed of being a dancer, but has been stifled by her father's firm stance that women should work at traditional female jobs (secretary, teaching) until they marry, and the appropriate place is for them is to tend to the home and have children. Marion sidesteps her father's wishes and auditions to be a Rockette. Her dancing skills are recognized and she lands the job. At the same time, the city is being terrorized by a serial bomber who has ties to her father's workplace. After a bomb explodes too close to home, Marion is determined to catch the killer by any means necessary.

Fiona Davis, in my opinion, is one of the best historical fiction authors I have ever read. I love her books and the focus of her books on the historical buildings. During and after reading her books, I am usually researching the buildings for days. This story was not my favorite, and I think it is because the focus was on a the bomber (who was a real life character) and not the building. In the other books, the focus has been on the secrets and intrigue of the buildings (the art studio in Grand Central Station, the residential apartments at the Public Library, etc.), and adding in many other real life characters that were icons of the Gilded Age. The setting (building) was almost secondary to the story. It just took some of the uniqueness out of Davis's work. This was by no means a bad book, and I enjoyed it, just not as much as as I have her past work. I will still be recommending it to my friends and patrons, and am eagerly awaiting her next book!

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On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give this book a 10!

In 1956, Marion Brooks has it all. A nice job at a dance studio in NYC and a sweet boyfriend whose upcoming proposal will propel her into a life of domestic bliss in the suburbs. Except, she's beginning to wonder if there's something more.

When she learns about an opportunity to audition for the Radio City Rockettes, she sashays toward the glamour of the bright lights. Not all that glitters is gold, though, because the Big Apple Bomber is terrorizing people in the city that never sleeps.

After 16 years with no suspects, the police lean on Peter Griggs, a young doctor at a local mental hospital who has a penchant for psychological profiling. (Think Criminal Minds.)

Explosive circumstances push Marion and Peter into the bomber's sights, and they must risk it all to catch him.

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Fiona Davis, one of the authors I pull off the library shelf without even reading the front flap of the book, has written her newest New York historical fiction novel. The Spectacular is another in a series of compelling novels.

Davis writes about the history of New York and this time she has focused on Radio City Music Hall. She writes a story of the young women who try out for and become the iconic Rockettes. So many young dancers grow up watching the Rockettes perform at Radio City dreaming of becoming one of the matching line dancers.

Back in the 1970s I remember going into The City and watching the chorus line and their beautiful costumes and high synchronized kicks before a movie would play. The history of the Rockettes is amazing and the added to that this book tells the story of the Mad Bomber, who was setting bombs all of New York City and took the police a year to find. The police for the first time enlisted the help of a criminologist and psychiatrist to give a psychological profile of the criminal.

Davis brings all these elements into a suspenseful novel about Marion, a young girl from the suburbs destined to marry and have a family, who decides she wants more from life. She audtitions for the Rockettes and is surprised to be selected. She lives in New York with other dancers and gets involved in solving the case of the "Big Apple Bomber".

Read a entertaining novel and learn some New York City history with the Fiona Davis novel, The Spectacular

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I am a huge fan of Fiona Davis and have always enjoyed her books..As such, I was delighted and excited to receive an advanced reader's copy of The Spectacular. Surprisingly, though, I could not get through it. I tried... I really tried to persevere, but I found the story extremely slow and I did not like the narrative voice. It just became unsatisfying and tedious.

Nevertheless, thank you Netgalley and Dutton for this great opportunity.. I have not lost faith; I am looking forward to Fiona Davis' next endeavour.

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The Spectacular is a very well written historical drama set in NYC in the late 1950s. Released 13th June 2023 by Penguin Random House on their Dutton imprint, it's 368 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

The story revolves around a mostly-appealing upper middle class young female dancer who is feeling stifled within the constraints of the life her family and society have given her. She auditions for the Rockettes on a whim and wins a place in the troupe, which turns out to be more challenging than even she had anticipated.

Loosely based around a series of real historical bombings in NYC in the late 1950s, author Fiona Davis has used dual timeline narrative and flashbacks to very good effect to create an engaging and readable story. The scenery and background research are also impressive (and must have been a prodigious task).

Four solid stars. It would make a good choice for library acquisition, gifting, personal reading, and would be an excellent book club selection.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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I simply love Fiona's writing and yet again she proves why she is an automatic buy for me. She has a way of bringing the narrative to life. This book is lovely.

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Moving and spenseful. Highly recommend.

Writing Quality - 10/10
Image / Illustration Quality - 10/10
Character Development - 10 /10
"Couldn't Put It Down"-ness - 10/10
Intellectual Depth - 10 /10
Originality - 10/10

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This story is told in first person from Marion in dual timelines of 1956 and 1992, in Manhattan and Bronxville, New York. Marion was always a standout individual. From her homelife to her job as a dance teacher and on to her time as a Rockette performing at Radio City Music Hall, Marion garnered attention without trying, but rather than find pride in her gifts others sought to make her feel less than for her individuality and force her to conform to their expectations of what she should be whether that be a dutiful daughter, domestic housewife or a single moving part of the larger whole that makes the Rockettes. And I have to say, that I was utterly fascinated with learning about all the behind the scenes and what goes into a Rockette performance!

I really enjoyed this storyline even if at times I had to stop my frustrations by reminding myself that Marion was only nineteen and self-doubts along with reluctance to question male authority figures are reasonable at that age. It’s also an appropriate age to realize that parents are not always infallible. The mystery with the bomber was intriguing and I enjoyed the author’s note at the end explaining the differences in her fictional story and reality.

While this story is told in dual timelines, this format didn’t always work for me. If the latter timeline had been limited to the beginning and end, I think I might have given it 5 stars. Instead, there were infrequent (four) interruptions to the former storyline that threw me out of the story and disturbed the pacing.

This would be a great book to read in December with the history and behind the scenes look at the Rockettes given their popularity at this time of year. Recommended as another choice to break up any sweet holiday reads and for those of you that don’t care to read holiday books.

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton Books for a copy provided for an honest review.

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(I got this as an ARC through NetGalley – it will be published on June 13, 2023.) I’ve read a few books by Fiona Davis, and this one isn’t bad, but isn’t my favorite of hers, either. It’s set in the 1950s, and follows Marion, a dance teacher who is fired and decides to follow her lifelong dream of actually performing by auditioning to dance with The Rockettes. At the same time, there’s a series of bombings set off by the “Big Apple Bomber,” who claims to be targeting the Metropolitan Power Company where Marion’s dad and sister work. Marion finds herself (somewhat puts herself!) in the middle of the search for the bomber, and works to follow her leads when the police refuse to. There’s a split timeframe between most of the plot in the 50s and some in current day, looking back, and the story just added a lot in the last chapter that didn’t feel totally necessary (and was borderline ableist, in my opinion!). I did, however, love the description of Radio City and The Rockettes!

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DNF @57%
I tried. I kept coming back to it over and over but it just didn’t hold my interest.
Maybe it will later and I can revise.

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This was my first Fiona Davis book and I really enjoyed it! I was intrigued by the NYC setting and the main character being a Rocket. I loved the behind the scenes of what it would've been like to be a Rockette during this time period. It was a pretty easy and entertaining read that I would recommend!

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