Night Film

The beginning of Fall and approach of Halloween always makes October feel deliciously spooky. When I picked up Night Film by Marisha Pessl, I didn't set out to read a macabre, dark tome. However, I was delighted to discover that, between Pessl's web of intrigue and the gray, sullen weather hovering over the D.C. area, I got just that.

Let's back up. Night Film is the story of a haunted (mentally, not literally) investigative journalist, Scott McGrath, drowning in self-pity after his obsession with the secret life of a cult horror movie director, Stanislaus Cordova, torpedoes his career. When Cordova's daughter appears to commit suicide, McGrath is pulled back into Cordova's world as he tries to figure out what dark forces may have contributed to her death. Along the way, he picks up a couple of strays--lost souls also adrift in the world and seeking their own sort of resolution--who become Bernstein to his Woodward.

Night Film, however, is so much more than that simple summary would lead you to believe. Pessl weaves articles and other investigation ephemera throughout the book, pulling her readers into the search for clues and as a way of creating richer, better developed characters. The story is full of mysterious characters whose reality may be interwoven with the horror flicks Cordova creates. Pessl does an amazing job building tension and suspense, leaving the reader wondering where psychic fantasy ends and reality begins. It's been quite a while since a story has scared me, but elements of this world infected the weaker parts of my brain, festering until I finally finished the book. I'd sleep fitfully, only to wake up with bloodshot eyes and thoughts of the Cordova mystery.

Even if you don't have time to curl up with Night Film this October, I recommend picking up a copy sooner rather than later. Once you've read that, check out Pessl's first book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which is equally entertaining and literary.