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Thewanderingjew

Thewanderingjew

Night Film: A Novel

Night Film - Marisha Pessl At the end of this book I sighed with relief. I was glad the tension was over, The story, however, is unbelievably magnetic. You can’t let it go once you begin, even as it gets more and more intense. The reader will wonder if they are reading a script in which the actors don’t realize they are participating. The reader will wonder about what in the story is fact and what is fiction. Will all of the varied characters be credibly connected in the end? Is black magic afoot, or is there a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of the mysterious happenings?
A former journalist, Scott McGrath, disgraced after making very negative, unproven comments about a powerful film producer, Stanislas Cordova, becomes embroiled in an investigation of that same producer’s daughter’s very untimely death. Did Ashley, an amazing pianist, commit suicide or was she murdered? What would possess her to do such a thing? Was her father involved? Befriending two young adults, Nora, an unemployed 19-year-old aspiring actress, and Hopper, a sometimes drug dealer, a few years older, who knew Ashley in his past, he sets off in search of answers, and perhaps to clear his name from the stigma of what he believes was his unjust fall from grace. The quest becomes more and more dangerous with increasingly diabolical twists and turns to confound the reader further. Will all the dots be connected in the end or will the investigative journalist, his sidekicks and the reader be left hanging?
All of the people who become involved with Cordova, the film producer of dark films, “night films”, eventually disappear from the public eye, going on to different careers or life paths or disappearing altogether, under strange circumstances. Is he inspiring them to be all that they can, “to dare” or are they running from the experiences shared with him, on the set, as the film was produced? Tragedy often followed those involved with him. The story takes on a very mysterious tone complete with an excursion into voodoo and the black arts, complete with spells and curses.
Believe it or not, this brilliantly developed mystery is told with a bit of humorous dialogue. The spine-chilling turns maudlin and even sympathetic. The horrifying sometimes becomes trite with Scott’s witty comments. In the end, though, Scott will even question his own sanity. The clues the reader is privy to will show him often being led on a wild goose chase for some time, and then, in very dangerous directions he seems painfully to ignore or be unaware of. Were these characters, unknowingly, characters in a film, was everything they saw simply a prop for the scene being prepared for shooting? Was an alternate reality being created?
Although I listened to the book on a long drive down the eastern seaboard, with an excellent reader, reading a hard copy is probably a better experience because of the pdf files created to make the book’s plot more real. A background of the characters in Cordova’s films, complete with photos, drawings and “actual” records, coupled with quotes from the producer, were created for the novel and appear throughout, lending the story within the story credibility.
I was a little disappointed with the hanging ending. I would have liked to know how Scott McGrath’s life was resolved. Did he return, disappear? Did he find peace and the answers he sought? Was Theo Cordova involved in his sister’s disappearance? In order to move Scott in a particular direction, were all of the characters simply being manipulated by someone outside the scene, someone who moved the characters from position to position? Was what appears to be Scott’s deliberate manipulation simply revenge for his previous insulting remarks about Cordova? Was the anger still smoldering in the man described as evil? Was Cordova’s long time right hand girl, Inez Gallo, really able to manipulate everyone in all situations? Is it believable, in the end that they anticipated all of his movements? Did his notes really give away all the information needed to follow his tracks? All these questions still remained a mystery on the final page! The reader has to solve the case!