In Short: When a horror film director’s daughter is found dead from apparent suicide, reporter Scott McGrath digs deep into the seedy underworld to try to put meaning to Ashley Cordova’s death.
Why I Read It: Because other book bloggers raved and raved about it. I bought my shiny new copy the day before I went into labor with Evie.
Thoughts in General: Mysteries and thrillers aren’t books that I naturally gravitate toward. Honestly I’m not sure why. I don’t mind watching them on TV or movie format (though I will zone out during any and all chase scenes), and Law and Order SVU is one of my favorite shows. This book is very much like Law and Order SVU (except we follow around the reporter rather than police detectives). While reading Night Film, I decided that maybe I’m too impatient or too easily bored with mystery and would rather watch it over an hour rather than spend several days following clues. Either way, I was reminded that mysteries and thrillers really aren’t my favorite kinds of books.
Let’s start with the good first. Of course all spoiler free.
- Night Film is a gorgeously constructed book. I could not stop touching the pages as they feel so luxurious. Night Film is told from the point of view of McGrath but in addition to his narration, articles, pictures, websites, and other forms of media are included. I loved the smashing together of all the different media and it really helped pull me into the story–especially as try to understand Stanislav Cordova’s nightmarish background and films.
- There is also a Night Film app that I chose not to download as I didn’t want to be pulled away from the text (and that twitter button on my phone is way too tempting).
- I really enjoyed the writing and thought that Pessl did a great job of showing me into the world that she created. See some quotes below–her writing is so moody and atmospheric.
- One lengthy scene (at The Peak, for those who have read) in the middle-end that was intense and thrilling and heart-stopping. I literally jumped several times when interrupted during my reading of this part.
Some things that flat out didn’t work for me.
- The overuse of italics. For no apparent reason.
- The length of the book. Seriously, a good 200 pages could have been cut.
- The hodgepodge team of characters including some very stereotypical behaviors and actions
- The chase. So many steps and clues and coincidences and leads and deadends. I grew bored and tired from it all.
But really. The writing was rather satisfying, at least.
“How elusive she was, how she shape-shifted, seemed composed of as many rival creatures as the tattoo. Head of a dragon, body of a deer. Inclinations of a witch. She was Orlando’s flashlight in the dark behind us, a pinprick of light in the violent downpour, dogging Hopper, dogging me. She was a beacon of mysterious origin and intention, impossible to determine if heading toward me or away. What, really, was the difference between something hounding you and something leading you somewhere” (353).
“’A Tornado knocks a house down, killing the owner, and it’s a tragedy. Then you learn a serial killer lived there and the same act becomes a miracle. The truth about what happens to us in this world keeps changing. Always. It never stops. Sometimes not even after death’” (420).
“Horror gripped me once again. It actually had a face and legs, a massive beast with skin of black rubber, a bony spine, and it was perched right beside me, waiting for me to give up hope so it could feast upon me” (474).
Bottom Line: If I had not bought myself a shiny new hardcover copy last year, I likely would have abandoned Night Film. In the end I’m glad I finished it, but I recommend it with reservations. If you pick it up, get ready for one heck of a ride—though it is a long ride.
Do you like mysteries and thrillers? What are some of your favorites?