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Brooke's Pick: The Spectacular by Fiona Davis

In 1956 New York City, Marion Brooks, one of the famous Radio City Rockettes, is unwittingly drawn into the police search for the "Big Apple Bomber" and may be forced to sacrifice everything she's worked for, as well as the people she loves most, to catch this elusive criminal.

In the modern age with women being given so much choice as to their life’s trajectory, it is hard to envision a time when young ladies did not have much say in their lives. But this freedom enjoyed by women of today is a newfound luxury; one not so readily afforded to our sisters of the past. In her new novel The Spectacular, Fiona Davis introduces us to Marion, a young woman who dreams of following in her deceased mother’s footsteps by pursing a career in the arts, much to the dismay of her traditional father.

When she attends a Rockettes’ audition on a whim and surprisingly finds herself cast, Marion finds her life headed down a path that looks quite different from the one her conservative father wants for her. With her father refusing to acknowledge her talent and passion for dance and a madman dubbed the “Big Apple Bomber” planting explosives around New York City, including Marion’s new place of employment, Radio City Music Hall, Marion discovers that striking out on her own is a whole new ball of wax, but one that she is willing to explore. She just hopes that she can stay sane amid her father’s protestations and pressure for Marion to marry her high school sweetheart, and the critique she receives as a Rockette for standing out so much due to her individualism. Not to mention that the bomber is striking closer and closer to home. When tragedy affects Marion on a personal level, her life sets off on a course that she couldn’t see coming.

The Spectacular is my first Fiona Davis book, but it won’t be my last. I was delighted to learn in the Author’s Note that Davis always picks a New York City building for her novels and then spins an intriguing narrative around it, grounded in some historical fact. What a fascinating concept! I can’t wait to explore more of her books, as I am a big fan of the historical fiction genre, and this seems like such an interesting way to learn about some of the more famous places of NYC. As in the case of The Spectacular, Davis bases her book at Radio City Music Hall, delving into the life of a Rockette, while also shedding light on New York’s “Mad Bomber.” While Davis changes much of the facts surrounding NYC’s notorious terrorist who remained at large for nearly two decades, this plot line of her novel was inspired by George Metesky, who was eventually caught after planting explosive devices in the city for 16 years. While The Spectacular is not factual, it did serve as a jumping off point for me as I researched Metesky and how early criminal profiling was used in his takedown. Quite intriguing stuff!

In all, The Spectacular is a fine piece of work! Davis expertly weaves history, style, and substance with a compelling coming of age tale about a young woman in the 1950s finding her way in the world. I was so enraptured by this story and found it to be entirely bingeable. The Spectacular comes highly recommended.

- Brooke, Public Relations Librarian


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