Night Film


On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan.

Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.
Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

~ Blurb from the back of the book

Going in, I had no idea what to expect from Night Film. I had read a couple of intriguing reviews that spoke about the multimedia aspects of the book, and that aspect, combined with mentions of suicide and occult doings was enough to sell this book to me.

I knew I would fall in love with Night Film as soon as I started it. It opens with some faked online news article about Ashley and her father. The way this was put together was the perfect hook to reel me into this book.

I usually tend to devour thrillers overnight, however this book took more than two weeks to complete not that I am complaining. For one, the book is extremely detailed and also extremely vivid. Marisha Pessl literally makes a movie with her words. Every interview, every experience that the trio of investigators go through, I felt that I was going through it as well.

I quickly realized that I really needed to take breaks from the book as it got creepier. I tend to read books late in the night before bedtime, but I discarded that ritual once the book entered its stride and started showing signs of getting seriously twisted. I ended up starting at shadows and peering out of windows suspiciously at strange sounds in the night.

It was only with the advent of the long weekend that I could fearlessly read this book in broad daylight 😀 otherwise this could so easily have been a Did not Finish.

So yes, this book is creepy and scary as hell. While the writing is ordinary (solid but not mind-blowing), the cadence of the book is perfect almost like a roller-coaster ride or a classical music symphony. It has a slow start, builds to a thrilling crescendo, before gently slowing down and letting you down at the end.

There have been a few reviews online from people who were disappointed at the gentle ending. I for one was relieved. So much of bleakness was hard to take, and the final rather prosaic ending was balm for my soul.

Thoughts on the Multimedia Inserts and App Outtakes

The images and the web pages inserted into the book are wonderful. Far from being a distraction, these graphics immersed me further into the book. Here are some examples of the imagery used:

A Missing Persons report that we read along with McGrath and screen caps of the forums that McGrath visits online during his investigations. Perfect examples where it is far simpler to show what the investigator is looking at rather than tell it later. I like this writing style (more show, less tell), and I think we will see more such innovations in many other books.

The app embed is also great – it provides additional information, but nothing that is spoiler-y or necessary to understand the book. If you don’t have access to the app, you are not missing anything in terms of content. It’s just the extra icing on what is really a well put-together thriller.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

You can also purchase this book from Amazon

What about you? Have you read Night Film? What do you think about this different style of presenting a book? Like or dislike?

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  • Finally a review by someone who liked Night Film. I will be reading it soon but I was getting put off by some people’s negative reactions. You sound like a reader who is more like me. I found your review on Carole’s Chatter Books You Loved thing.

    • Nish

      @Judy: Yeah, there are a lot of not so great reviews for Night Film. Yes, there are issues but I love what Pessl was trying to create here. I think the ending was a downer for many people, but I didn’t mind it actually. Occult based books always have it tough – there are folks who want the rational ending, and those who want the super-natural one, and that reader’s expectation can make or break the book. It’s an individual thing.

  • This one would definitely be too scary for me, I did wonder when you said it was “extremely vivid” but you’re daylight reading marathon confirmed it! Maybe if I had a less active imagination I would have risked it… but I don’t. Lol. Great review honey.

    • Nish

      @Annie: It did give me the creeps for a couple of nights but I am over it now. There is no overt violence as such in the book, but there is a lot of menace in the air.

  • I love this style of book. I wish more authors would do stuff like this — very often it seems that authors can’t quite manage to write about the internet the way actual people actually use the internet. Marisha Pessl incorporates it wonderfully and adds such a lovely weird wrinkle with the hidden Cordova site. So much fun.

    • Nish

      @Jenny: I know…all of the research and the material looked so authentic. I loved it. I am guessing more books will adopt technology in their writing in such a cool way. It will probably even become a trend, who knows?

  • Scary, huh?

    I can’t read scary, but it does sound good.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole’s Books You Loved November Edition. I am in the list as #28. My book entry is below.

    Silver’s Reviews
    My Book Entry

  • Love the extra parts! I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. I don’t think my copy has any though 🙁

    • Nish

      @samstillreading: Really, I am surprised. I would think that all editions will have it.

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