Disgraced journalist Scott McGrath just can’t let a story go, even though his investigation of creepy film director Stanislas Cordova nearly ruined him. When the body of Cordova’s daughter Ashley is found, an apparent suicide, Scott begins where he left off. What events lead to the death of this brilliant young woman?
Cordova is a mysterious figure in the entertainment world. His films are so disturbing most have been banned, only accessible through black market connections. No one who has viewed them is the same afterward. He shows humankind the darkest side of itself. Scott wonders how much of Cordova’s films are movie magic and how much is real. What happens to the actors who play these twisted parts in these graphic movies? What part did they play in the death of Ashley? The closer he gets to the answers the more danger he finds himself in, just like the protagonists of Cordova’s films.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl is one messed up book. It’s starts off like a fairly straightforward mystery. A girl dies. What happened to her? Was she an addict? Crossed in love? Mentally ill? As Scott learns more about the girl, her last moments, her family, her friends, the picture just gets wider. Soon he must investigate the films, how they were made, who were the actors. The story becomes a twisted psychological thriller. It becomes clear that Ashley’s life is far from the average Hollywood director’s child.
Cordova is, of course, a fictional director; he might be the epitome of the ‘serious artiste’ or he’s seriously fruit loops. Scott finds out that almost no one has ever seen the man. The people he talks to are just in the man’s orbit, they’ve heard things or done things for him. Talking to the man is more than Scott can dream.
Night Film is heavy on the film imagery. There are nods to Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski, Nicolas Roeg, Alfred Hitchcock, and probably more than I’ll ever know. The same people or items appear: strange dolls, a red coat, redhaired women. Pessl creates pictures with words. As for the characters themselves, beyond the great white whale that is Cordova, there’s McGrath, the haggard reporter, Nora, the perky ingénue, and Hopper, the damaged bad boy. Then there is Ashley. Like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, she’s a character seen only through the eyes of the other characters. That was one the best parts of Night Film for me. Ashley could be anything, an angel or a devil, depending on who is describing her. Everything she has done affects the plot of the novel.
The plot is twisty and trippy. At one point I thought, what the hell is going on here? As for the ending, well, I’m still thinking about it. Would I have been a Cordova fan?
About the Audio: Ok, so I started listening to this before I realized that there were visual additions to this book, like photos and fake articles from magazines. I’m not really sure what I missed, actually. I’m going to get my hands on a physical copy when I can. This was a review copy without the pdf that is supposed to come with it. This bothered me at first. However, further into the book I got the less I cared about that. The narrator is Jake Webber. He has a slow, raspy voice. Since Night Film is in first person, I came to believe that he was Scott McGrath. His interpretation of the other characters is spot on as well.
And for thrills and giggles, here’s the spooky book trailer.
Night Film will be available for purchase August 20th.