Night Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm hoping that some of my quibbles get corrected in the final edition, because otherwise this was a great read. What quibbles? An over-reliance on italics just because. Very annoying. And then there's the location of Hurley NY, which is in the Catskills, not the Adirondacks.
I did like this story of a man's obsession with finding out what happened to the daughter of the man he'd started to investigate, made some ill-considered comments about, and found himself disgraced and sued as a result. Scott McGrath has been following Stanislaw Cordova's career for years, mainly because Cordova is so very, very controversial. The line between real and movie-fakery is unclear in his films, taking viewers to a very dark place - so much so that his films have mostly been banned, shown only as "night films" in underground theaters. There's a mythology about Cordova, the films, The Peak (his 300 acre estate in the Adirondacks) and the actors who worked with him. When Ashley is found dead, Scott gets hints that it was not suicide but murder and sets out to investigate.
In a short amount of time he acquires to "helpers", Hopper (who met Ashley at a drug rehab work retreat) and Nora (former coat check girl at the Four Seasons, Ashley's last known location) and together they visit locations, interview people and generally try to unravel Ashley's last few days. For readers, the question of narrator reliability is critical: is Scott telling the truth? is anyone? what are the motivations for everyone involved? Even by the end, it's not clear if anyone is being honest, or what actually happened to Ashley. We have clues, but no clear answers - I love that!
It was also interesting to see that this isn't purely text. Intermixed with the narrative story are police reports, magazine articles, screenshots from websites and notes - these add so much to the feel of the book, as well as expand our experience of reading in interesting ways. While the author's website is currently relatively barren, it would be interesting to see if she (or the people running it) will add content that also expands on the book.
ARC provided by publisher.