Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Night Film - Marisha Pessl

It's been a long time since I've been compelled to write a review within hours of finishing a book.  But I'm just afraid all the juicy goodness...the atmospheric awesomeness...is going to melt away over time, so I've got to get it out now.

This book has gotten so much hype.  Everywhere from Entertainment Weekly to Barnes and Noble to the blogs to Amazon...people are talking about "Night Film".  Sometime in mid-July the buzz became so unbearable that I was worked up into a frenzy because I had to wait until mid-August for its release.  Rhapsody Jill came to my rescue by mailing her ARC copy to me in Indiana.  Just driving the point home was the fact that my sister (a movie critic, NOT a book critic) also had an ARC copy and was reading it in Indiana as well.  We laughed at that one.  So let me tell you a little about this wonderful thing.

Synopsis:  Scott McGrath has a love/hate relationship with Stanislas Cordova, mythical film director of a series of disturbing, unrated underground horror films.  While doing an investigative piece on Cordova a few years ago, McGrath received an anonymous tip that Cordova was up to something bad...really bad.  While McGrath was a huge fan of the reclusive director, he publicly accused him of wrongdoing and ruined his career and marriage in the process.  It remains a sore spot to this day.

Then Cordova's 24 year-old piano prodigy daughter Ashley is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in Manhattan, apparently of a suicide.  McGrath decides to resume his investigation of Cordova, because he has a feeling that Ashley's death was not an accident.  There has to be more to it, and this could be a way to redeem himself.  In his digging, he picks up two assistants in the form of an innocent wannabe actress and a grungy stoner, and they are launched on a wild ride into the murky world of Cordova.  Lines become blurred as they encounter stories of madness, black magic, and strange disappearances.  Soon the trio is questioning not only the depravity of Cordova, but their own sanity and grip on reality.

My thoughts:  OK prepare for some gushing.  Loved this book...LOVED.  Let me count the ways I loved this book.

Loved the noir feel to it.  You have this mythical director, who hasn't been seen for decades, with a cultish fan base.  His movies were once Oscar-caliber but have gone underground with its continued descent into the dark depths of the human condition.  People have been known to pass out or go insane after watching his movies, which is totally over-the-top and fun in an urban legend way.  There are secrets and rumors and even a highly-guarded fan website with sightings and artifacts and tidbits.  This is just rich stuff.

Loved the pictures.  There are webpage snapshots, police reports, photographs, newspaper clippings...which just add to the mystery and authenticity of the story.  For this very reason I would highly recommend this book in print.  But the author took it even further.  She even developed movie posters for Cordova's movies!  It just makes the whole thing full-immersion.

Loved the characters.  Scott and his sidekicks have a palpable chemistry between them.  If any of you have read Melina Marchetta's "Jellicoe Road", I would compare the camaraderie in that story to this one.  It is precious.  Also, the supporting cast in this mystery is vivid, each and every one of them.

Loved the wild ride.  The digging up of witnesses and clues and mysteries was positively delicious.  And it leads up to sort of a manic, Stephen King-like drug trip where you have no idea what is real and what is not.  For anyone who loves a puzzle, this is going to make your brain buzz.  And the twists and turns keep going to the very end.  (For those of you who like things wrapped up neatly, you won't find it here.  I am seriously hoping for a sequel.)

About halfway through the book, I started slowing down my reading.  First, I didn't want it to end.  Second, I was scared to death that the author was going to screw me over.  (If you have ever been on the receiving end of a literary screwing, then you know what I mean).  I am happy to report that I came out the other side of this one with my honor and faith in literature intact.

This book isn't for everyone.  You really need to be a fan of "the murk".  I'm not talking horror here.  Cordova made horror films, granted, but there is nothing here all that terrifying.  It is more of a brain-bending mystery that is so much fun to explore, but it is dark and oily.  If you like a good mystery, then without a doubt, this must be your next read.

5 out of 5 stars
    


16 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I have to admit I'm kind of nervous about this book because of all the hype. Most of the time, I don't feel like I'm smart enough for books like this.

Serena said...

This book is a must read for me at some point...will have to scrape pennies together to buy a copy

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Well, I probably didn't like it almost as much as you loved it! ha ha! But I do recognize her talent!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

This sounds like a perfect October read!

Tasha Brandstatter said...

This is the kind of book I would ignore under any other circumstances, but so many people love it. And I do enjoy a good mind bendy mystery...

Jackie Bailey said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this one, but you're the first to actually persuade me to read it. I look forward to giving it a try :-)

Jackie Bailey said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this one, but you're the first to actually persuade me to read it. I look forward to giving it a try :-)

Trisha said...

Oh how fun! Reclusive culty directors are just so fun to begin with.

Darlene said...

I've got this one on audio from the library and can't wait to get to it!

JoAnn said...

I added my name to the (long) library hold list after reading Ti's review... now I'm wondering if I should just break down and buy it now!

Ti said...

What are you reading now? I had a hard time reading anything after this one.

Bybee said...

I didn't care for her first novel, so I've been shy of this one.

Julie P. said...

Ok. Ok. You've convinced me. I was worried that it wasn't my type of book but I just have to see for myself.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Oh gosh, I was so nervous about this one because of all the hype! But then I received my copy this week and I got really excited to read it. Reading your review now, it is clear to me it has to be the next book I read once I am done with The Humans. I am glad to hear the pictures added to the immersive experience. Sounds like it will be a perfect read for the RIP challenge!

caite said...

You liked this way, way more than I did.

stacybuckeye said...

I've a few other reviews that made me think I wouldn't like this one. Now I'm not so sure. The dark and oily description scares me a little.