Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Published: 2013
Genre: Adult Mystery Thriller

Synopsis: Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.

Rating: red-starred-starred-star 1/2

Night Film by Marisha Pessl was a mix of many a thing and this book evolves as you read it, morphing into different genres. I think my feelings for this book evolved as the book evolved.

The story is pretty straight forward. We follow investigative reporter Scott as he tries to piece together what led Ashley to kill herself. The reason he’s so passionate about her death are two things – one he saw her before she died and instantly knew something was wrong and two – she’s the daughter of larger than life director Stanislas Cordova. The same man he investigated 5 years before and led to his career being destroyed.

So we follow Scott and his sidekicks Nora (a young actress with no credentials) and Hooper (a drug-dealer with a mysterious connection to Ashley) as they go through a crazy man-hunt through New York City to find out exactly what happened to Ashley. The more they uncover the crazier it gets (and I mean we’re dancing in the occult here with snakes and curses and devil sightings). I think I was there for this story until about 88% in when the ‘big reveal’ happens and like many thrillers it falls flat and jarring. The big reveal lost it an entire star for me and I will explain why.

I felt that Pessl was attempting to walk a fine line between illusion and reality and there was a chance to bring in the serious creep factor to take it to the next level but she pulled the reigns back and reminded us of the real world and that for me crashed all the magic of the book leaving me with a deep sense of dissatisfaction. I felt rather cheated and I don’t like feeling that from a book, I don’t particularly enjoy ambiguity from a 600 page book and I had the distinct feeling that Pessel cried “psyche!”after she took us down a deep dark rabbit hole.

I know this book is well loved and I can see how that can be but I think editing would’ve played a much larger role in this getting higher points. For example them italics – why were there so many italics in this book I just dont understand. Also there was some rather unfortunate hand-holding during this book like:

‘Some heads are rolling, by the way, over that suicide you’re so interested in.’

She meant Ashley.


We’ve only been investigating that suicide for the past 543 pages, I had completely forgotten about that shit, thanks for the reminder.

So, I think the problem was that I thought this book was going to be much more… murder-mystery-esque and Gothic and for a while there it was but somewhere in the end I felt like we were showered with frigid water and that took me completely out of the immersive theme it carried throughout. In all? It was a good book, a bit above average but too many things did not allow me to give it 4 or even 5 stars.

That’s my 3rd back to back massive tome I read, I need me some Colleen Hoover or something.


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