Staff Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Reviewed by Simone

This new novel by Marisha Pessl, the follow-up to her debut novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, describes journalist Scott McGrath’s quest to unravel the mystery around movie director Stanislas Cordova and his family. He had already made an attempt to do this some years ago, but after Cordova’s daughter Ashley is found dead, and has apparently committed suicide, he sets his mind to discover the truth once and for all.

Scott McGrath takes you along his hunt for information regarding the Cordova family, focusing mainly on Ashley and her apparent suicide at the young age of 24. Cordova is a notorious movie director, who has made horror movies that are eerily realistic, and most of them are only shown at illegal screenings. Do these movies have anything to do with the young girl’s death? And is Cordova even still alive? McGrath delves deeper and deeper into the family history, and is helped along the way by Nora, an aspiring actress who is just about homeless, and Hopper, who used to know Ashley, and is just as eager as Scott to find the truth. Together, the three of them relentlessly pursue relatives, teachers, neighbors and acquaintances of the family and bit by bit uncover some of the disturbing family secrets. The highly secluded and secured family mansion “The Peak” seems to be the main location to look for some answers, but will they ever get in?

Night Film is very well written, and pulls you in straightaway. The newspaper clippings and website articles that have been included in the book help you become interested in the story and the characters. You feel almost as if you’re doing the research WITH them. The book starts at a good pace that keeps you going until about halfway. Then the pace slows down somewhat due to several longer talks and interviews with relatives, only to pick up again for the final, and revealing part.

I think Night Film is an excellent novel, with a generous dose of mystery (is it General Fiction with some Mystery, or a literary Mystery?), which will suit both readers of Crime and of General Fiction. I enjoyed the characters, who had day-to-day matters to deal with as well as pursuing their journalistic ambitions.  It gave them extra dimension and made them sympathetic and believable.

An eBook is available for Night Film.