I’ve read this book before and honestly, it’s one of my favourites. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but I feel as if Marisha Pessl climbed into my head and pulled out elements of all the things I love the most – then wrote this just for me. Hard-boiled investigative journalist, an apparent suicide, a shady and mysterious film director nobody wants to talk about – a rag tag gang hot on the case. It’s everything.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

On a damp October night the body of beautiful Ashley Cordova is discovered in a Manhattan warehouse. Though her death is ruled a suicide, investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise.

The last time McGrath got too close to the Cordova dynasty, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his mind.

Scott McGrath’s career was all but ruined when he used bogus information to slander world famous film director, Stanislas Cordova in print. While convinced he was set up by a carefully planted ‘witness’, his once illustrious career is now in tatters – the tainted word of a journalist no longer the one. But worst of all, it seems, is the perpetual torment of unfinished business.

But when Cordova’s daughter Ashley dies by suicide, McGrath can’t help but wonder if there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Can he unravel the mystery surrounding Ashley’s death – while tying a neat bow around his own feelings toward the elusive Cordova? Well, these are the million-dollar questions. While you can certainly feel a Noirish chill in the air – and the alcohol-soaked has-been hero is a familiar trope – the intricacy of the story, the detail and the movie-centric setting had me gripped.

Chapters are inter spliced with fictional movie synopses’ and news articles about Cordova and his daughter Ashley’s death, while McGrath – and later his research assistant, would-be actress Nora Halliday – trawl the Blackboards for clues about the director’s whereabouts, who he really is and more. The addition of these screens, which share anecdotes from people who have had their own Cordova ‘encounters’ add layer upon layer to the story, though I can imagine not everyone loves this format.

Meanwhile, McGrath picks up young gun Hopper on his travels. While Hopper cultivates an air of nonchalance, it soon transpires he knew Ashley as a teen and is inextricably connected to her. But how? Well, there’s a really easy way to find out.

I’ve read a review that accuses the characters of being flat and in a way I kind of get that. They’re a teensy bit cliched perhaps, but I do like them, particularly Nora. Maybe I just have a thing for eccentric ingenues just trying to make their way in the world.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read and still rate this as one of the best mystery thrillers I’ve read in recent times. For a film or horror fan, it’s an absolute must. The hardest thing to deal with in all this though is the fact that Cordova’s films are pure fiction – and they need to exist in the real world.

5/5

What are you reading?

Cordova film posters via marishapessl.com.