Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Night Film

Night FilmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When the daughter of a legendary reclusive film director commits suicide, disgraced investigative reporter Scott McGrath sees his chance for redemption, for he crossed paths with the director, Stanislas Cordova, years before, costing him his family and his career. What will McGrath find when he begins tugging at the strands of Cordova's web?

When I interviewed Edward Lorn for my book blog, he mentioned this among his favorite books. At the time, I saw that it had some post-modern aspects and dismissed it as hokum. Last week, I chanced upon it on the bargain table and decided to give it a shot.

Night Film is the tale of a man's obsession. Picture Moby Dick but with a film director in place of the white whale. Scott McGrath was once a rising star in the field of journalism but lost everything when he crossed Stanislas Cordova. When Ashley Cordova commits suicide, the hunt is on once again.

The book has the structure of a detective story, interspersed with articles and web postings about Stanislas Cordova and his family and associates. Normally, I would scoff and pronounce this gimmicky crap but it served the story very well.

McGrath descends deeper and deeper into the web of dark tales about Cordova, pulling his new friends Hopper and Nora, both touched by Ashley Cordova in the past, down with him. Is Cordova Satan himself? Some kind of witch or warlock? A child killer? A genius or a madman? Who the hell knows?

I'm not really doing the book justice. I think the creepiest thing about it was that none of it is outside the realm of possibility. By the time I passed the 66% mark, I was contemplating taking a day off work to finish it. It wound up being an even crazier tale than I ever expected when I first picked up the book.

The writing reminded me of Tana French a bit, literary but still suited to a detective tale. I'll have to track down Special Topics in Calamity Physics when I get a chance.

I see a lot of people having trouble with the ending. I was pretty sure it would end the way it did once the ambiguous endings of Cordova's films were revealed. I did love the fake-out ending at the nursing home, though.

If dark detective tales with a psychological component are your drug of choice, Night Film will be a great fix. Five out of five stars.

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