Summary (from Goodreads):
Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.
On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.
For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.
The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lost his grip on reality.
Marisha Pessl's Night Film has been marketed as an scary thiller. I enjoyed the book, but let me tell you something: it is neither thrilling nor scary. The story starts with the dubious suicide of Ashley Cordova soon after investigative reporter Scott McGrath has a ghostly encounter with her. Convinced that Ashley was trying to reach out for help, Scott starts investigating her death. There are also personal motives fueling this decision, since the enigmatic Stanislas Cordova had destroyed Scott's reputation some years before her daughter's death, and Scott can't help but think the two events are somehow related.
The starting point of the book is quite intriguing. Was it really a suicide? What happened to Ashley Cordova? Who is Stanislas Cordova and why is he so secluded? Is it all linked to a series of children abductions which happened during the eighties? And yet, with such a cool mystery, the story never picks up its pace, never grips the reader. The novel mixes dark magic, curses, drugs, and cults. [A little note here: if you are going to use Spanish because your character have a Hispanic background, double check the grammar and the spellings. Spanish is my native language, and the mistake-ridden sentences were driving me mad. Also, Cordova wouldn't be a Spanish surname, much less a Catalonian one.]
Pessl offers a choose your own ending approach - a sane, logical and safe ending, or a magical one. I saw this from a mile, and this is not because I'm good at picking up clues - the investigation is really convoluted in this novel. It is because the clues mean nothing to the real mystery, which is if Scott is living his life or a film version directed by Stanislas Cordova himself, and this is so blatant it isn't even a mystery. Yup, Ashley's death is not really that important. As a mystery, Night Film is a very ineffectual one.
It is clever, though. Marisha Pessl is quite clever and she knows it, so the story can be indulgent at some points. She has constructed a story of layers upon layers, and a whole mythos about the fictional cult director Stanislas Cordova, which is by far the most interesting part ot Night Film. Each of his films has a plot and some relevance to the overall story - Pessl has created a dozen of stories within the bigger story, and these fictional films are things I would like to see, but with my hands covering my eyes. They felt more interesting than Ashley Cordova's death or Scott's crumbling life. Pessl has also created a convincing world around the director, complete with a secret network, secret clubs, a scary mansion, and magazine articles on his life. These felt a bit gimmicky, but they eventually added something to a story that would have been slightly clichéd otherwise. On the other hand, I hated the app which supposedly adds extra content to the book. It honestly didn't work well in my phone, and I didn't want to wait for the app to work to be able to continue with my story. If a novel isn't well-paced in the first place, don't add a cumbersome obstacle which will harm the pace even more. Just saying. I ended up not caring about the extra content.
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