Night Film by Marisha Pessl
A Novel

76%

46 Critic Reviews

In simple, unadorned moments like these, when her heroes seem at least as interested in one another as in a dead girl or absent auteur, “Night Film” settles into the relaxed rhythms of a Ross Macdonald mystery, with a dirt and hunger and guileless laughter that are all Pessl’s own.
-NY Times

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • Cosmopolitan • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage

A page-turning thriller for readers of Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, and Stieg Larsson, Night Film tells the haunting story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a troubled prodigy—the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker.
 
On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
 
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.
 
Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.
 
The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.
 
Night Film, the gorgeously written, spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense until you turn the final page.

Praise for Night Film
 
Night Film has been precision-engineered to be read at high velocity, and its energy would be the envy of any summer blockbuster. Your average writer of thrillers should lust for Pessl’s deft touch with character.”—Joe Hill, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Mysterious and even a little head-spinning, an amazing act of imagination.”—Dean Baquet, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Maniacally clever . . . Cordova is a monomaniacal genius who creeps into the darkest crevices of the human psyche. . . . As a study of a great mythmaker, Night Film is an absorbing act of myth-making itself. . . . Dastardly fun . . . The plot feels like an M. C. Escher nightmare about Edgar Allan Poe. . . . You’ll miss your subway stop, let dinner burn and start sleeping with the lights on.”—The Washington Post
 
“Haunting . . . a suspenseful, sprawling page-turner.”—USA Today
 
“Entrancing and delightful . . . [a] whipsmart humdinger of a thriller . . . It feels, above all things, new.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Gripping . . . a masterful puzzle . . . Pessl builds up real suspense.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“A very deeply imagined book . . . sprints to an ending that’s equal parts nagging and haunting: What lingers, beyond all the page-turning, is a density of possible clues that leaves you leafing backward, scanning fictional blog comments and newspaper clippings, positive there’s some secret detail that will snap everything into focus.”—New York
 
“Hypnotic . . . The real and the imaginary, life and art, are dizzyingly distorted not only in a Cordova night film . . . but in Pessl’s own Night Film as well.”—Vanity Fair


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Marisha Pessl

See more books from this Author
Marisha Pessl graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University.
 
Published August 20, 2013 by Random House. 640 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon8
Peak Rank on Sep 08 2013
icon1
Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Night Film
All: 46 | Positive: 36 | Negative: 10

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Joe Hill on Aug 16 2013

In simple, unadorned moments like these, when her heroes seem at least as interested in one another as in a dead girl or absent auteur, “Night Film” settles into the relaxed rhythms of a Ross Macdonald mystery, with a dirt and hunger and guileless laughter that are all Pessl’s own.

Read Full Review of Night Film: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Aug 14 2013

There is a haunting suspicion running all through “Night Film”: that this book was more exciting to write than to read, and that Ms. Pessl reveled too contentedly in the universe she created. On the rare occasions when she calls attention to double meanings or bits of wordplay, they fall terribly flat.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 10 2013

...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.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Melissa Block on Aug 22 2013

I probably won't remember all that much of the winding plot a few weeks from now; and the characters are basically vehicles for overarching concepts, more than anything else.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Meg Wolitzer on Aug 22 2013

This book is like a big fun-house — Pessl lets you decide if you want to believe its magic...But Marisha Pessl had an extremely cool and intricate idea for a novel, and ultimately it works. I was totally happy to sit in the darkness until the very last page, and I didn't move a muscle until the lights came up.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Mark Athitakis on Sep 03 2013

“Night Film” isn’t horrifying the way Cordova’s films are said to be. But concerned as it is with “how flimsy sanity was,” it does a fine job of upending your assurances.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David Ulin on Aug 15 2013

Ultimately...the most troublesome aspect of "Night Film" is its benighted attitude toward art. Throughout the novel, in either McGrath's voice or those of the people he interviews, Pessl offers a series of riffs on the inviolability of the artist and the belief that, in the act of creation, every indiscretion or cruelty may be redeemed.

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The Economist

Below average
Reviewed by The Economist on Aug 17 2013

As with her first novel, this one occasionally feels overwrought (children are “Guantánamoed with a nanny”) and overlong.

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The Economist

Good
on Aug 17 2013

But Ms Pessl swiftly veers from the standard whodunnit to deliver a more inventive, reality-warping tale about family curses, black magic and the manipulative influence of film. Interspersed with the drama are intriguing pages of police and medical reports, media articles and spooky photos from the Blackboards...

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AV Club

Below average
Reviewed by Ellen Wernecke on Aug 19 2013

There are only so many ways to peel the onion of Ashley Cordova’s mysterious death, and the one unearthed isn’t nearly as tantalizing as the shimmering mystery that has parted to reveal it.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Marjorie Celona on Aug 23 2013

Like all satisfying thrillers, the investigation inevitably winds to a close and Scott McGrath ferrets out the truth. And here’s where the novel really sings...

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Bill Ott on Aug 26 2013

...the book is every bit as complex as Calamity Physics, but the writing is always under control, and the characters never fail to draw us further into the maelstrom of the story

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Sep 04 2013

“Night Film” is easily the most innovative, engaging and ultimately enjoyable reading experience of 2013.

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by Eugenia Williamson on Aug 17 2013

Here she conjures an entire oeuvre, as well as its production, reception, and mediation. But her biggest triumph is the specter of Cordova himself. “He’s a myth, a monster, a mortal man,” she writes. One who, by the book’s end, many readers will wish desperately was real.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by Donna Rifkind on Aug 21 2013

I think Pessl is setting up a mirror to show us our distracted, entertainment-drunk culture...She's blithely unconcerned, as she was in her first novel, with any suggestion of depth. Speed and volume are her articles of faith, as they must be ours

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PopMatters

Good
Reviewed by Brendan William Boyle on Aug 13 2013

What Pessl leaves the reader with is another ambiguity, a moment on the verge of absolute truth, in which Ashley’s mystery might be totally solved, and McGrath might be about to capture smoke in a jar. For once, Pessl knows when to end a scene; as with all good mysteries, the killer might be found out, but the girl herself remains unsolved.

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Boston.com

Good
Reviewed by Mae Anderson on Aug 19 2013

...some set pieces are exhilarating, including one near the end when McGrath finds himself stumbling through an endless maze of perfectly preserved Cordova movie sets, increasingly unsure if he is still investigating Cordova’s death, or inside a movie himself.

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Boston.com

Good
Reviewed by Eugenia Williamson on Aug 17 2013

Cinephiles will marvel at Pessl’s detailed knowledge of and love for film history and culture — also on display in her much-lauded 2006 debut...

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Boston.com

Good
Reviewed by Eugenia Williamson on Aug 17 2013

The cumulative effect is entrancing and delightful, infusing the narrative of this whip-smart humdinger of a thriller with urgency and spookiness. It feels, above all things, new.

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St. Louis Today

Good
Reviewed by Dale Singer on Aug 18 2013

...his unstoppable quest leads to the inevitable climactic scene with the elusive director in an ending that is both puzzling and strangely satisfying, maybe even leaving open the possibility of a sequel.

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Journal Sentinel

Excellent
Reviewed by Mike Fischer on Aug 16 2013

Suffice it say that while "Night Film" has as many hairpin turns as "The Da Vinci Code," the writing is worlds better and what's at stake infinitely more important.

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Chicago Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Jac Jeme on Aug 16 2013

Pessl...proves that she knows how to navigate a gripping mystery and uses great skill to ensure that the reader is on the narrator's side, which turns out to be essential in unwinding the story's manipulations.

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Time Out New York

Above average
Reviewed by Matthew Love on Aug 21 2013

Scott is a bit of a blockhead, there are some odd gaps in plot and character motivation, and the prose is somewhat wooden...

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MSN Entertainment

Above average
Reviewed by Mary Pols on Aug 15 2013

Maybe "Night Film's" physical heaviness is supposed to echo the heaviness of the narrative, which includes rumors of Satanic cults, black magic and movies so dark they literally incite people to kill.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by http://idreambooks.com/Night-Film-A-Novel-by-Marisha-Pessl/reviews/164322 on Aug 23 2013

Like all satisfying thrillers, the investigation inevitably winds to a close and Scott McGrath ferrets out the truth. And here’s where the novel really sings: The truth is so human and quotidian that it is almost heartbreaking.

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That's What She Read

Good
Reviewed by Michelle on Aug 16 2013

It is a novel that attracts and repels in equal measure but will continue to haunt readers no matter on what one ultimately believes about the story.

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Aug 19 2013

Night Film is a long book. There’s no question of that. Yet it will still leave readers wanting more, as they race through it. Despite its length, I managed to read this book in one sitting, and you should plan on doing so as well. It’s just that compelling and gripping.

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Rhapsody in Books

Above average
on Aug 19 2013

I think the author has a lot of talent, but I was more under- than over-whelmed by this book. However, if you are into dark noir cult films, you will probably love this book.

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Jenn's Bookshelves

Good
Reviewed by Jenn on Aug 19 2013

Be prepared to dispel disbelief, just give yourself up to the author and allow her to transport you into the dark world of Stanislas Cordova. The rewards will be innumerable...

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Devourer of Books

Good
on Aug 28 2013

The farther I get from this book, the more impressed I am. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it when I was reading it, but it is not every author who can write a book of over 600 pages and have it be such a tight storytelling experience.

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Raging Biblioholism

Good
on Jun 14 2013

The whole thing is an experience I will not soon forget – and one I will continue to contemplate the meanings and complexities of for a long, long time.

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Criminal Element

Good
Reviewed by ELYSE DINH-MCCRILLIS on Aug 20 2013

Night Film is full of...observations that are witty and sharp and contain instantly recognizable elements of truth. The plot is dark and mind-bending, but it’s always clear that Pessl knows what she’s doing...

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My Bookish Ways

Excellent
on Jul 12 2013

It’s an essential for suspense/thriller fans and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone that will listen. Marisha Pessle is a name to remember, and an enormous talent. I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next.

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Everyday eBook

Good
Reviewed by Amanda Bullock on Aug 20 2013

Night Film is unlike any other book I have read. The story takes a great Mulder vs. Scully view of the case and the cultish Cordova-verse...

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Chrisbookarama

Good
Reviewed by Chrisbookarama on Aug 07 2013

The plot is twisty and trippy. At one point I thought, what the hell is going on here? As for the ending, well, I’m still thinking about it.

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Bite the Book

Good
Reviewed by Jon Page on Jun 27 2013

Pessl deftly takes you on a journey that ebbs and flows from the rational and analytical to the disbelieving and magical until eventually breaking down your walls of resistance which only helps shroud everything in a more deeper mystery.

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Lost in a Great Book

Above average
Reviewed by LOST IN A GREAT BOOK on Aug 21 2013

...there is a need for the reader to buy into the mystical nature of the narrative in order for the story to work.

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Entomology of a Bookworm

Excellent
on Aug 20 2013

It's a big, messy, brilliant mind-fuck, and if you have any interest in films, innovative novels, horror, journalism, and/or the power of storytelling, read it now.

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Suvudu

Above average
Reviewed by Matt Staggs on Aug 01 2013

...Pessl uses a number of unconventional devices to tell her story, like screen captures from websites and copies of notes and letters.

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Chicks Dig Books

Good
on Aug 19 2013

At over 600 pages, Night Film is quite a workout, but it will hook you from page one, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested.

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Life by Candlelight

Good
Reviewed by Amy on Jul 22 2013

A highly suspenseful book that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you attempt to solve the mystery of Ashley and her father along with McGrath.

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Great Imaginations

Good
Reviewed by Kara Malinczak on Aug 28 2013

Stay up late reading this...or don't if you scare easily. I would not want you to have nightmares. Muahaha. Just like Cordova, this book is an enigmatic mystery just waiting for you to unravel what is on its pages.

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A Lovely Shore Breeze Blog

Below average
on Aug 20 2013

...the book fell into the very long, rather pointless middle section, a boring, series of road trips of discovery, long and short, that could have been drastically cut. Drastically...Finally, finally, the reader emerges, for what turns out to be a quite clever and interesting ending. But by then I had almost lost heart. And the desire to go on.

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Feeling a Little Bookish

Good
Reviewed by Meaghan on Aug 05 2013

I think that this would make a good book to movie adaptation as well. I guess we will wait and see what happens. I really enjoyed this novel and I think that most of you will as well.

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Sweet Tidbits

Excellent
on Aug 15 2013

Night Film is a haunting and intoxicating story that treads the line between science and mystical that will burrow into your very core and leave you questioning everything.

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Dilatory Bibliophile

Above average
on Jul 13 2013

I found Pessl’s overuse of italics incredibly irritating and rather perplexing. Due to its extensive featuring of modern technology, Night Film is timely but probably not timeless.

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Reader Rating for Night Film
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Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

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