Marisha Pessl's sophomore novel, Night Film, is a hot ticket; I had to keep it hostage from the library to finish it, and my $1.50 in fines for the nearly three extra weeks was more than worth the book's wild ride. I loved being the first one to check it out, in its first week of publication, and indeed there was a hold on it when I turned it in today (complete with the review from NYTimes Book Review I'd clipped one Sunday while I had the book). At first, I feared that the tale might be too creepy; horror is not my genre, but I can enjoy a mystery. Night Film proved to be a psychological thriller, and I read it in big gulps, sailing through a dozen tiny chapters at a sitting. (There are more than a hundred chapters in its 624 pages.) Its innovation is the use of reproduced (fictional, but with permissions) web pages, magazine clippings, and records, which I found effective in pulling me in and giving a feel of primary-source material. Apparently, there is also a digital component, but I decided not to go down that rabbit hole in the wake of my recent iOS7 update. One may be able to access the "real" Cordovite Blackboards, but I don't want to. While I recall really enjoying Pessl's first book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (2006), I don't remember it all that well. My sense is that book was more "literary" in both style and content; I wasn't dazzled by the writing in Night Film, nor was I put off by it in any way. Mostly the story compelled me forward, maybe because I'm a film fan, or because I love New York, or because Scott's dogged pursuit of the truth captured me. Pessl has crafted another amazingly inventive tale.
Superlatives: Character I'd most like to hang with: Nora. Character I'd most like to hear more from: Inez Gallo. Most honest character: Nora. Most caricatured character: Marlowe Hughes. Most throwaway character: none.
From the publisher's page:
On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.
Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.
The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.