Last weekend we decorated our house for Halloween and after tacking up the fake spiderwebs to the corners of the ceiling and setting out pumpkins, I decided that a good, scary book was in order. One book that has been on my to-read list for a while now has been Night Film by Marisha Pessl.
Night Film is a murder mystery that shows strong influences from the horror genre. Scott McGrath is a divorced journalist with a sullied reputation, the result of an unsuccessful probe into the activities of the reclusive cult horror filmmaker, Stanislas Cordova. When Cordova’s 24-year old daughter, a beautiful and gifted pianist, turns up dead after an apparent suicide, however, McGrath is skeptical. He soon throws himself into a renewed investigation of Cordova’s family. McGrath is joined by two strangers, each of which is as slippery and difficult to pin down as the different figures from Cordova’s life. As their hunt for information continues, though, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish reality from the disturbing fiction of the filmmaker’s repertoire.
I won’t say that this is the best written book that I have read this year. Pessl, whose prose in Special Topics in Calamity Physics was charming and invigorating, seems to have spent more time conjuring up the complex plot of Night Film than delivering taut dialogue. Lest this seem too critical, though, I will say that I really, truly enjoyed the book. Fast paced, suspenseful, and creepy, the characters won’t surprise anyone who has read a few mystery novels…but I still I had to know what was going to happen to them. And I definitely needed to double check the locks on my doors before bed!