Night Film

Marisha Pessl. Random, $28 (596p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6788-6
Seven years after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Pessl returns with a novel as twisted and intelligent as that lauded debut. Again, the story centers on a father-daughter relationship, but this time the sinister element is front and center, beginning with the daughter’s death. The “night films” of Stanislas Cordova have a cult following: fans hold underground screenings and claim that to see his work is to “leave your old self behind, walk through hell, and be reborn.” Ashley Cordova is his enigmatic daughter; she appears in his final film at the age of eight, debuts as a pianist at Carnegie Hall at 12, and apparently commits suicide at 24. Scott McGrath is a reporter who lost his job investigating Stanislas and can’t resist his need to uncover the real story of Ashley’s death. Though the structure is classic noir, Pessl delivers lifelike horror with glimpses, in the form of faux Web sites, of the secretive Stanislas, his films, and his fans. Things slow down when Scott breaks into Stanislas’s estate; sustained terror depends on what is withheld, not what is shown. But Pessl does wonderful work giving the hard-headed Scott reason to question the cause of Ashley’s death, and readers will be torn between logic and magic. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/10/2013
Release date: 08/20/2013
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