Night Film

“Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you realise you’re standing on another trapdoor.”

Marisha Pessl

Will you look at this cover?

Isn’t it awesome?

I bought this gorgeous hardback copy of Night Film a couple of months ago, basically as soon as humanly possible after its publication date in August (coincidentally, also my birthday – how could I not read it?), because I read and loved Pessl’s first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (NOT A PHYSICS BOOK!) which I have raved about at least once here.

And I’ve only just got round to reading it. Which is sad, because Night Film is a truly wondrous novel.

Like Special Topics in Calamity Physics, it markets itself as a fairly ordinary murder mystery. I wouldn’t have bought it off the blurb, which relates the basic premise: Ashley Cordova, daughter of elusive and legendary horror film director Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an apparent suicide at the bottom of an elevator shaft in New York. Scott McGrath, disgraced journalist who has already had at least one run-in with Stanny Cordova, is, fairly predictably, On The Case.

But it becomes clear fairly early on that this is no ordinary murder mystery. In fact, if I had to classify it as anything, I would call it horror, which is remarkable because there is no actual horror here. There are no monsters under the bed, no graphic violence, no axe-wielding psychopaths. What there is, is atmosphere. Hidden Internet sites forbidden to outsiders, forgotten corners of New York inhabited by the lost and the lonely, junk shops full of black magic and strange things…it’s enough to keep you awake at night.

And every time one answer appears, another begins to rise out of the fog. Again and again, the mystery looks solved…and then it isn’t, any more. There are no real hard and fast answers, and you know what? I like it that way. Because, like all great novels, Night Film is in some part about stories, and what happens when the stories stop.

Bleurgh. That’s a horrible description. I never can review my favourite books coherently. Look, just go and read it. That’s the only way you’re going to find out what I’m wittering about.

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