624 pages, will be published on August 20th 2013 by Random House
When the 24-year-old daughter of infamous horror film director Stanislas Cordova is found dead in an elevator shaft, the police immediately rule her death a suicide. But investigative reporter Scott McGrath, who briefly tangled with Cordova several years earlier, is certain that there’s more to the story. Teaming up with two rookies - Nora, the coat-check girl who saw Ashley Cordova days before her death and Hopper, a quiet drug dealer who received a mysterious package from Ashley - McGrath begins to unravel Ashley’s twisted past and in turn, the horrifying history of Cordova himself. But every loose end that McGrath manages to tie seems to work itself free, leaving new questions and startling conclusions in its wake. As he dives further into the Cordova family’s past, a sinister place populated with curses, black magic, and death, paranoia sinks in and McGrath begins to think that he is being targeted by Cordova himself.
Scott McGrath is a likeable character, although his quest for the “truth” does cloud his judgment in both his personal and professional lives. I found myself raising my eyebrow a few times as he blatantly put himself and his family in danger and his already tarnished reputation on the line. His relationships with Nora and Hopper are endearing, yet somewhat unrealistic. I can’t imagine a veteran reporter actually allowing two inexperienced strangers, decades younger than himself, ride shotgun on perhaps the most important investigation of his life. But for the most part, their dynamic works: Nora’s innocence, Scott’s determination, and Hopper’s secret motivations blend together to form a perfect storm of investigative prowess.
In a nod to post-modernism and perhaps to create a more visual reading experience, several sections of the book are scans from articles about Ashley and her father, screenshots of webpages, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Most of this worked well for the book by giving the reader a sense of involvement with the story, as if we, too, were reading the hidden Cordova message boards and magazine articles along with McGrath. But I could have done without the few photos of Ashley herself, as I would have liked to create my own image of her. I imagine these photos were included, again, to create the feeling that Ashley’s story is grounded in reality and add a greater sense of urgency to the novel.
With Night Film, Marisha Pessl has crafted a literary thrill ride that will leave readers turning pages deep into the night. I myself began to feel tied up in Cordova’s complex world the longer that I read. My imagination got the best of me a few times after the lights had gone out. And more than once as Scott McGrath gave brief synopses of Cordova’s films, my first reaction was skip over those sections because I didn’t want his films to be spoiled for me before I got to see them. Unfortunately for us, Cordova exists only in the excellent Night Film, as do his films, his fans, and his family.
**I received this book for free through the Goodreads first reads program.