Night Film by Marisha Pessl

I've had Night Film on my shelf for a little bit, and I finally got around to reading it. What attracted me to it originally was that there was an app that you could use on your phone to uncover clues; however, the app has since been removed from the app store (at least when it comes to Apple, I cannot speak for other phones). There is a website that you can go to, but I found myself not needing it, or want it. I liked the book on its own.

Murder or Suicide?

(Source: Kelsey Darling)
Night Film is told from the perspective of investigative journalist Scott McGrath, who has, over the recent years, become a bit of a disgraced reporter and divorced, and is now trying to make it by by occasionally teaching classes. The cause of his disgraced status is the reclusive film director, Stanislas Cordova. McGrath had tried to take down Cordova after receiving a phone call saying that Cordova spent his evenings driving around to school playgrounds and taking souvenirs. "There's something he does to the children," the caller tells him (p. 33). However, this was a setup, and McGrath lost any previous status he had.

But now, Ashley Cordova, Stanislas daughter, is found dead. Although it is ruled a suicide, McGrath remembers the words of the mystery caller all those years ago, and deep down feels that there is something much darker behind the death of this young, bubbly, 24-year-old woman who had the whole world in front of her. Despite always working alone, McGrath ends up pairing up with Hopper Cole, an old acquaintance of Ashley who does a really good John Bender impression, and Nora Halliday, a want to be actress who sees the world through rose colored glasses. As the trio pours deeper into the lives of the Cordova's, they find themselves with more questions than answers, and find their lives at risk more than once.

Tangled Webs

Like most suspense novels, Night Film does take a little bit to get going, but I expect that. You have to build up to why we should be interested in a missing/dead person, we need a back story; the reader isn't going to care about someone they know nothing about. So I'd say for the 100 pages or so, Pessl is building up the plot and characters. However, once the trio is together and starts really investigating, I couldn't put the book down, just as the quote on the cover suggests.

One thing that the author spends a lot of time on is making sure that you know what Stanislas Cordova's movies are like, and about two-thirds through the book, I understood why. Cordova's movies are a bit of a mind fuck. The quote from Cordova before the start of the book from a fake Rolling Stone article sums it up nicely.

Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out? Do you want to know what is there or live in the dark delusion that this commercial world insist we remain sealed inside like blind caterpillars in an eternal cocoon? Will you curl up with your eyes closed and die? Or can you fight your way out and fly?

All of his character are forced to make these decisions in extreme and terrifying situations. There are many similarities between Cordova's films and the events of Night Film. It is a perfect foil. When I realized this, it made me love the book so much more.

But what I loved most, what I love most about all of my favorite books, is the characters. Each of them has a detailed back story, a reason to care about the death of Ashley, and they each have a purpose to serve for the other. McGrath starts out very unlikable, and has moments of being unlikable throughout the book, but in the end, you love him and want to best for him. Hopper is a carbon copy of Bender from The Breakfast Club, although I believe Pessl compared him to another 80's character. Nora is a free spirit; she's only 19 and still sees the world as safe and pretty; although she does have a sad youth, she never lets any of the negativity effect her view of the world; it's equally refreshing and annoying. They are an odd trio, but they each bring something to the group and to the story.

(Source: Giphy)
The suspense is thick, especially when they break onto The Peak, a private estate owned by Cordova where he shot many films and did all of the editing. There are many times where I couldn't turn the pages quick enough to find out what was happening, and when the group is separated, which happens a couple times throughout the novel, I found myself wishing that parts were told from the other characters perspectives so I could stop worrying about my people.

The ending was the best. It was every bit predictable and out of nowhere and left me wanting more.

(Source: Giphy)

Rating: 9/10
Author: Marisha Pessl
Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller


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