Night Film

by Marisha Pessl (Random House)

Sep 4, 2013 at 12:30 am

Written with hip, smart and exquisitely brilliant prose, Marisha Pessl’s latest novel, Night Film, is like a roller coaster ride through the haunted house at the wildest amusement park ever built. It’s a spine-tingling journey covering enormous territory as it delves into the deep recesses of the human psyche. The novel is packed with all manner of alternative, reader-interactive material, from web pages to emails to a smartphone app that allows readers to scan images for more content. But at its core, Night Film is a tale of black magic, ultra-realism and fanaticism surrounding the death of a promising young woman adrift from her reclusive movie director father.

Scott McGrath is a young, aggressive reporter who has already made one attempt at exposing enigmatic and adored director Stanislas Cordova. That experience blew up in his face and ruined his career. When he hears that Cordova’s daughter Ashley has been found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft, he’s intrigued but more than a little gun-shy. Authorities are calling it a suicide, but McGrath thinks there’s more than meets the eye and decides to take a closer look while taking another stab at demystifying Cordova and resuscitating his own career.  

A character loosely based on Stanley Kubrick, with his obsessive behavior and control-freak tendencies, Cordova has drifted far off the plantation into the world of bizarre and disturbing. In Night Film, reporter McGrath and comrades travel a treacherous journey to discover the heart of Cordova.

Along the way, McGrath and two tag-along assistants visit a psychiatric hospital, a tattoo parlor and several other locales where Ashley was spotted before her death. In the end, Pessl performs a bit of sorcery when McGrath finally confronts Cordova’s lifelong assistant and the mystery of Ashley’s death is revealed. Pessl neatly ties up the loose ends and includes a cute little bow when McGrath achieves redemption in the form of his own beautiful reward.

Grade: A+