It's not often that a book comes along where you genuinely don't want the story to end, but Night Film is one of them. The blurb on the back of the book reads:
"Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. 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 lose his grip on reality."
Night Film is an edgy, dark and thrilling read. An middle-aged investigative reporter and his two cohorts, Nora- who has a touch of the Holly Golightly crossed with a punk about her, with her aged parakeet that travels everywhere with her in its cage, and Hopper, a disheveled but none the less still glamorous loafer, who between the three of them are determined to get tot the bottom of the mystery of Ashley Cordova's death. Pessl tells the tale in a assured and confident voice with a strong blast of creativity that shows itself by the use of media to add depth to the story. In her acknowledgements Pessl thanks those who helped her "to push book design in a new direction" and this has been done by the inclusion of web pages, emails, newspaper reports and photographs. It makes for fascinating reading.
Referencing the poetry of Eliot, in particular 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', Pessl also makes frequent reference to the use of social media in our lives now; texting, updating our status and the one way relationship dealing with a screen- indirect comments on the state of modern society.
Night Film is as addictive as the very films and the director that the reporter is chasing. It draws you in and the story builds in strength like a river as its tributaries add more to its size until it bursts into the open sea. And, like Scott the reporter, just when you think you have the mystery explained she brings more mystery to the tale to take you deeper down again. Unsure of where the real world and the imagined draw their lines the reader is brought on a chase to find an elusive person, a director who stays in the shadows, Hitchcock-like but with a darker twist.
Possibly the best book I have read this year, it follows Pessl's best selling first novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Don't let the size (599 pages) put you off- you'll find yourself loath to put it down as you race to its thrilling and equally mysterious close.
Night Film is published by Windmill Books www.windmill-books.co.uk .