Saturday, March 22, 2014

Leads to Nowhere

I was so excited to read Night Film by Marisha Pessl!  Her earlier book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics is one of my Favorites.  I went in expecting so much, and Pessl pulled out all of the stops to try to deliver.  Unfortunately, it felt like she delivered quantity at the cost of quality.

Night Film begins when an investigative reporter, Scott McGrath, is running at a NYC reservoir and he sees a woman who might or might not be following him.  Soon, a famous director's daughter, Ashley, is dead, and McGrath believes that she was the woman at the reservoir.  Because he had ruined his career by trying to expose the director as a criminal, McGrath felt that he had to solve the mystery of Ashely's death.

The director, Cordova, is known for his violent films in which the fear and injuries seem a little too real.  His films were banned after copycats began killing people in the ways shown in the movies.  A cult of followers developed, with illegal showings of the films popping up around the world. 

McGrath can't let go of the mystery of Ashley's, death.  While investigating, he meets two people who had also had contact with Ashley shortly before she died, Nora and Hopper.  Together the three of them pursue all possible leads, including black magic, a sex club, an antique shop, and lots of strange characters.

Night Film is full of gimmicks which Pessl must have thought were necessary to the story.  There are photos of newspaper clippings, emails, and photos of the characters and scenes.  Some of the online reviews have indicated that these are difficult to read on an e-reader, and I can't imagine how they would translate to an audio version.  There are also small pictures that appear on some of these pages.  If one goes to the app store and gets the Night Film Decoder, the pictures can be scanned to reveal more detail, such as movie posters, interviews and more stories.  Pessl also feels the need to italicize words in most paragraphs of the book, which got annoying.

There was an opportunity for a great ending that I think Pessl missed.  It felt like she was working so hard at coming up with a conclusion that no one could guess that she missed the chance for a satisfying ending that at least tied a few loose ends together.  After 500 pages of McGrath being unsure of who to believe, he talks to a character who should have been inherently unreliable, and accepts what she says as the truth.  In the end, one is left asking questions.  Why would Cordova bother, and what did McGrath gain?

This is one more down for the I Love Library Books Challenge.

Next Up:  This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Still Listening To:  A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

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