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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

Night Film | Review

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐


"On a damp October night, 24-year-old 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 Stanislaus 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 is a standalone mystery thriller novel by Marisha Pessl.


This was on my list for the '22 Books to Read in 2022' (and a secret challenge I am doing) so I am happy that I finally got to tick this book off.


This was a complicated book to try and delve into because I didn't know how to approach it. Originally, I was going to try and read this both physically and on audio at the same time, as I did with Illuminae, but I ended up listening to the audio alone because I was multitasking. I will get more into this later but, overall, I did enjoy the story even though I am kind of surprised that I did.


This is a very drawn-out mystery with low tension and not too many high stakes. We essentially just follow a trio as they try to uncover what happened to Ashley Cordova, the daughter of a famous director. Again though, I was surprised I enjoyed it considering the length of the book and the direction of the story. I even rated this above the average rating which doesn't happen often with me.


Let's get into the details.



 

WRITING/NARRATING

 

As I mentioned earlier on, I didn't know how to approach this book because it is multi-media. That means that there are webpages, news articles and such included in the text. As a result, when listening to this on audio alone you do miss out on the visual aspects of the novel, and the audio can end up sounding odd as well when the narrator is reading something like that. I did end up giving up on reading it physically though, even if that might have been the better way to consume the book, so that I could listen to the audio while doing other things.


As for the narrating, I found the narrator to be a bit droney at times as he wasn't overly expressive especially when it came to the mixed-media pages. He kind of just sounded like an A.I. reading the page.


His accents were also not great as well, especially his generic 'Asian' one. At one point Scott, the main character, was talking to someone he presumed to be Korean, and then the narrator decided to use a very bad generic Asian accent for that character. He also attempted to do a Jamaican accent as well which wasn't great either.


One thing about this book that I assume was supposed to elevate the reading experience was that there is an app or website with extra content. You are also supposed to be able to, somehow, click on the bird images to bring you to said extra content. That didn't work, and the app and website are both dead.


As for the writing itself, despite how chunky this book is, I feel like there wasn't much that could have been taken out. It was a well-enough crafted mystery that I didn't feel like reading it was a chore.



 

PLOT

 

For a book as long as it is, the premise and story are rather simple. Scott McGrath is a disgraced investigative journalist who fell from grace after attempting to condemn famous director Stanislas Cordova. Years later, he ends up being dragged back into his investigation on him after encountering his daughter Ashley before she was found dead.


The story started out strong with Scott being followed around by a strange woman, later found out to be Ashley Cordova. For as strong of a start that was, as it did end up setting up the tone and mystery, it ended up being bogged down with the exposition that followed. One issue with multi-media books like this is that the sudden onslaught of new articles can end up stilting the narrative as it did in this.


While all the context was a lot to process at once, it did present an interesting narrative surrounding Cordova. You have this famous director who makes disturbing films that have a huge cult following, and it makes you wonder what kind of man he is to create content like that the way he does. And that is essentially what Scott gets himself wrapped up in as he not only tries to figure out what happened to Ashley but whether or not Cordova had a role in her death.


One minor issue with that is that the plot focuses mainly on Ashley, and very rarely does it veer into Cordova's direction. As such, that part of the mystery remained unknown for the majority of the book. I was expecting Scott to focus more on trying to pin down Cordova since that was his original motive all those years ago, but he didn't.


Moving on, the further I got into the book the odder it became. That is because, without going into spoilers, once I reached the halfway point it was like I was reading a different book. The story just went in a completely different direction I wasn't expecting at all. Everything turned out fine in the end, but I was very confused by the sudden shift.


When I got to the end though, again without going into spoilers, I didn't know how to feel. At first, I was mad at the resolution but once I sat on it a bit, I ended up being fine with it. There is a lot that ends up being left unsaid, which is a bit disappointing because I was a smooth and clean ending that explained everything, but it didn't.



 

CHARACTERS

 

We primarily follow three characters in this novel - Scott, Nora and Hopper, with Scott being the character whose perspective we follow. I don't really have much to talk about in this section because I didn't mind the characters. They did have some rather questionable moments at times, but otherwise, I think they played their roles rather well.


One thing I do wish is that this delved a bit more into Cordova himself because the way his character was built was rather fascinating. He could have made for a very interesting character study so it was a shame he wasn't focused on more.



 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

 

This is a long, drawn-out mystery, there is no doubt about that, but I found it to be a satisfying one. While this did end up feeling like two different stories once it hit the second half, I still rather enjoyed this. The story was both simple and complex enough that it held my attention the entire time.


I was worried a couple of times during the book that my enjoyment would decrease when I got to the second half, and when I got to the ending, but by some miracle, it didn't. I can see why people wouldn't enjoy this. The ending could completely ruin your enjoyment, and it did for me for a bit when I read it, but after sitting on it a bit I found that I didn't mind it.


One last thing I want to add is that this isn't a horror, and can barely be classified as a thriller as well. This is mainly just a mystery, so if you are going into this expecting those kinds of elements then you may end up disappointed.

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