Night Film by Marisha Pessl
(Random House, 2013)
Format: hardback bought at the wonderful Blue Willow Bookshop
From Goodreads: "Night Film tells the haunting story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a troubled prodigy—the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker.
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."
So, I actively disliked Scott McGrath pretty much from page one. (Or should I say pretty much from page one.?) (The of italics in this text was gratuitous and inexplicable, unless the purpose was to assist in my disliking the narrator.) In addition to the italics, we've got his crappy parenting and his egoism and the very fact that he was obsessing over all this Cordova stuff. On the other hand, he went for it. He chased his story, he endangered himself and others, he tossed around piles of cash in pursuit of leads. He was all about taking action. Which meant that even though I disliked him, I was very much along for the ride.
Cult horror films aren't my typical milieu, but I enjoyed this deeper and deeper delving into the world of Cordova and his fans. Pessl did fun things with her interactive portion of the book - not just the pages made to mimic web sites or sheaves of notes, but the scannable photos that took me to additional content. (The additional content was pretty much all about Cordova's films in some way, the kind of thing that his obsessive fans would compile for their invisible internet sites. It wasn't necessary for the narrative of the novel, but made the world McGrath was investigating all the more real.)
Ultimately, the mystery unraveled to reveal something not terribly mysterious, and I think Pessl could have done more to make each character an individual - they weren't any of them all that distinguishable from McGrath, which made them all a little hard to like - but I found myself turning pages and looking forward to more as the story developed, so I'm very happy to have taken the leap down a disused elevator shaft and into the world of this book.