I’d read many wonderful reviews of this book and was attracted by the “mystery/psychological thriller” bit. Unfortunately, what I’d missed, was that this novel was part horror. By the time I realized that I was already 8 hours in – way past quitting-time.
Night Film’s main character is investigative journalist Scott McGrath who’s lost some of his credibility years ago, by throwing up an unfounded accusation against horror film-maker Stanislas Cordova. Now he lives alone, sharing custody of his little daughter with his ex-wife. When Cordova’s 24 year old daughter Ashley commits suicide in an abandoned Manhattan building, McGrath decides to investigate. He finds unlikely co-investigators in a coat-check girl and a dubious drug-dealer.
The title of this novel, “Night Film” refers to the cult horror films that Stanislas Cordova is famous for making. As we delve into Cordova’s private world and the unnatural influence he had on family and fans, the story gets creepier. The initial listening hours pass by very quickly, because there’s mystery and eerie suspense. The tone is sinister with talk of black magic, curses, witches etc. The story goes on in a procedural fashion with the three investigators rooting about for clues to Ashley Cordova’s disturbed life and her father’s philosophy, habits and whereabouts; Stanislas is reticent and never appears in public.
Pessl develops her story well. The initial build-up sets you up for something big. Unfortunately, that something big never comes, and I was disappointed by the ambiguous ending. Her characters are interesting. I actually liked McGrath because he had a sensible head on his shoulders, but as time passes, he starts to get uncharacteristically imaginative, wondering if his theories are grounded in the real world or the occult.
Night Film is an atmospheric novel, so full points to Pessl on setting the mood. Her descriptions are detailed, so you get a good sense of the settings and the people in them. I’d been anticipating a literary thriller, and although it starts off all right, Night Film gets too pot-boiler-ish for that. Post-read I’d liken this book to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code; if you liked that you will probably like this.
Night Film is narrated by Jake Weber, and his raspy voice is similar to Jeremy Iron’s. Weber tone was well suited to portray McGrath, and he did well in playing out the other characters too. I would look forward to other books narrated by Weber.