Review│Night Film

night film

Author: Marisha Pessl // First published in: 2013 // Genre: Mystery
This edition: 599 pages, published in 2014 by Random House Inc. // Get it @TheBookDepository

Read in October 2014

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.

On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.

For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.

The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.


My thoughts

I went into this book a little apprehensive; because even though it had amazing reviews (including one from Ron Lit, which is really all you need sometimes), the word on the street was that it was also spooky, terrifying, and would keep you up at night. Something that I don’t enjoy and don’t look forward to. But pushed by all the hype and the gorgeous cover, I dived in.

And oh my lord, what an incredible plunge I took. This book hooks you from the get go and you can’t let go. Funnily enough, it took me quite a long time to read. One of my Goodreads updates says “I’ve read for over 2.5 hours and managed to only go through 70 pages”, which is quite unusual (my regular pace is 40 pages per hour). It is very dense: the story, the book itself (it weighs a ton but is rather skinny for a 600-page book), the content (articles, medical reports, etc.).

Because something a little different, if I may say so myself, about this book, is that it is sprinkled with “other” content. You have your regular prose, and once in a while, you find yourself reading the pages of a website, or a patient folder from a medical facility, or pages from a journal, scraps of paper, a movie script, etc. I was a little bit skeptical about this because it usually distracts you from the main story and the integration of the “foreign” content is not very well done. But here, it really integrates itself seamlessly into the rest of the book, and at no point is it distracting. You really feel like you are part of the investigation, all the clues that the main character has his hands and eyes on, you do too.

The force of this novel is obviously the character of Cordova. He is a ghost, present all throughout the book, but never really there either. He is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. I am going to go out on a limb here (because I have not read it), but I am going to say that it is almost like the great white whale in Moby Dick : a haunting presence that almost renders the main character insane chasing it.

My rating:

I gave Night film 4.5/5 stars. The ending is a little too open for my liking and it did take me a long while to get through it, but the story was very well crafted, the mystery was engaging, and the characters were all 3-dimensional and complex, which made things even more interesting.

I absolutely recommend that you read this novel.

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