Night Film (2013) – Marisha Pessl


This week’s book shelf brought me a book that was dark, troubling, steeped in film, murder, the occult, interactive elements, and evil.

I loved it!

It came to me via my sister at Christmas, and reading the inside of the jacket, I was duly interested. Who doesn’t like a good mystery, especially when it’s doused in the realm of film and cinema? Sign me up. Plus there’s this whole interactive element that the book introduces with symbols that take you, via your smartphone, to other interesting tidbits, files, posters, recordings…

So I dug into this one happily, and flew through it.

Scott McGrath is an investigative journalist, who is currently living in a bit of disgrace. It seems he tried to dig into the past of reclusive director Stanislas Cordova, and someone in his camp, to protect the filmmaker, set Scott up. Now, Cordova’s daughter Ashley has turned up dead, in an apparent suicide.

But was it?

As Scott and two young companions, a wannabe actress, Nora, and a drug-dealer with a bit of a past, Hopper, investigate they aren’t sure if they are looking at a suicide, a murder, or something even more insidious. As they try to dig into Cordova’s life, they come up against barriers, real and imagined (or are they?). The director has spent his life out of the limelight, and his films have progressed so deep into darkness, mainstream theaters will no longer show them, but the devoted seek them out.


McGrath dives into this world, getting all the way to Cordova’s legendary home, The Peak, and finds himself out of his depth, in danger of not only losing himself, but possibly his young daughter Sam, who his ex-wife, Cynthia has custody of.

From that point on, film, fiction, and reality all seem to blur together, as suspicions of child murders, the occult, and dangerous figures all make their appearance in this captivating tale. Told from McGrath’s viewpoint, when the line between possible fiction and reality becomes blurred, it becomes, intentionally, quite difficult to tell which way is up, and simply adds to the dread and foreboding that seem to permeate the book the deeper you get into the story.

There are twists, revelations, and final reveals, all of them done well. There were a number of times, when I thought I had it all figured out, especially in the last 3/4s of the book. I would say to myself, this is going to be such and such, a few pages later, that very thing would come up, but then it goes off in a whole new direction, and changes everything.

I quite enjoyed Pessl’s work in this, her second novel, and am thinking about hunting down her first as well, Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

This one, Night Film, is a must-read for anyone who likes a good mystery, and has a passion for film!

As an aside, my favorite link that showed up on my smartphone, were all the posters for Cordova’s films, perfectly reflecting the poster styles and designs of the time that they were supposed to exist in.

Take a look at it and let me know what you think!




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