Whatever your opinion of Cordova, however obsessed with his work or indifferent – he’s there to react against. He’s a crevice, a black hole, an unspecified danger, a relentless outbreak of the unknown in our overexposed world. He’s underground, looming unseen in the corners of the dark. He’s down under the railway bridge in the river with all the missing evidence, and the answers that will never see the light of day. - from Night Film, Prologue -
Marisha Pessl’s latest novel, Night Film, is a dark noir tale about a mysterious film director (Stanislaw Cordova) and his gifted daughter, Ashley. When Ashley is found dead in a run down building in New York, her death is ruled a suicide. But for investigative reporter Scott McGrath, Ashley’s death looms as suspicious. McGrath’s history with Cordova is tangled and toxic, and McGrath is determined to not only uncover the circumstances behind Ashley’s untimely death…but to reveal who Cordova is as a man.
I started reading this book at the end of September. It is a chunkster at more than 600 pages, but I thought it would be the perfect airplane read as it was touted as a page turner – a breathless and terrifying novel of suspense. Unfortunately, I found the book to be a laborious read. Pessl’s narrative unravels through the limited point of view of McGrath who painstakingly tracks down evidence of Ashley’s life right before her death. There are bizarre reports of witchcraft, dark magic, and unsavory characters. McGrath is joined by a questionable guy who had a history with Ashley (Hopper) and a naive, homeless woman named Nora. The threesome follow dubious leads and question the people who knew Ashley the best. I found myself growing tired of this endless investigation.
I read nearly 400 pages of this book before giving up. I just did not care enough about Ashley, her father, or the other characters to learn the final mystery of Ashley’s death.
I wanted to love this book. But, I do think it is overwritten and could have been edited down to about half its size in order to speed up the narrative and hold the suspense better. Sadly, I never fully engaged with the plot which felt contrived to me.
I have read some interesting reviews of this book since laying it aside. The Washington Post found it to be a “rambling exploration of the way pop culture infects our expectations, our concepts of reality.” While The New York Times observed that “this book was more exciting to write than to read.”
I can’t recommend this one.
Have you read this book? What did you think?