Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Special Topics in Calamity Physics) is the freshest book I have read in years. By fresh I mean, new plot, new characters, new vibe. It's a hybrid between mystery and horror, leaning more towards mystery. 

The beautiful young daughter of a famous underground horror film producer is found dead. It looks like a suicide, but her actions before her death indicate otherwise. For a journalist named Scott McGrath who's career was materially damaged by reporting on her father's activities in the past, the search for what really happened to Ashley Cordova becomes an all consuming investigation for him.

Pessl succeeds in getting us deeply inside the head of her protagonist, Scott, who knows how to get himself deeper and deeper into trouble without a whole lot of regard for the long-term ramifications. The character of the horror cult film producer, Stanislas Cordova, is as intriguing as he is mortifying. 

The newspaper articles and photos inside the book add another layer to the book so it feels like you are examining some of the evidence. I really liked this aspect. 

Night Film also comes with a free smartphone app that expands on secrets from the book: audio and video snippets, a journal and other documents, etc. These media elements enhanced the story and I loved the experimentation of it. If you don't want to deal with the app you won't miss any plot elements, but the app suited the book well and I hope to see multimedia elements included in more books in the future. 
One of the photos inside the book. Any photos with the bird symbol you see at the right bottom corner can be scanned by the app for additional multimedia

If you like tight suspense, deep characterization, dark subjects and a fresh and moving plot, this book might be for you. The subject matter is dark and moody. The book is tightly written and incredibly hard to put down. It sticks with you long after you've read the last page and closed the book. 


  1. An app for a book? How cool and unique. I hope this is the start of something new!

  2. I saw this author interviewed on Sunday Morning and have been wanting to read this book, and her first, since. It just went to the top of the pile based on this review.

  3. It's a really good book and the app adds an interesting dimension.