Book Review – Night Film

Night Film by Marisa Pessl (Hutchison) ISBN: 9780091953799

Scott McGrath is a journalist working on the expose of iconic, reclusive horror director Stanislas Cordova after the suicide of the filmmaker’s daughter, Ashley. Helping him in his quest to uncover the dark truth is coat-check girl-slash-actress, Nora Halliday and a handsome young dealer called Hopper.

Night Film is an engrossing read from the moment you pick it up. It is a gorgeous Russian Matryoska doll of a novel—stories within stories, each leading to another mystery, another character, deeper and deeper. However, Pessl’s narrative skill is such that you are never confused for even a sentence. She draws the portraits of her fascinating and complex characters with fictional websites, photographs, police reports and apps.

For readers who are film buffs, there are wonderful references to the world of cinema. In a way, the novel is structured in the same elliptical method used for Citizen Kane. Ashley’s red coat echoes Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Cordova’s secretive filming methods are similar to those of the late Stanley Kubrick. Nora embodies kooky heroines like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Melanie Griffith in Something Wild. Hopper is a rebel outsider like his namesake Dennis Hopper.

There are so many layers in Night Film that it begs to be read more than once so you can discuss it with your friends.

Anthony Ehlers


42-year-old Scott McGrath is an investigative reporter in New York. Five years before the story begins, he was a celebrated, respected writer who was investigating the reclusive, cult figure, Stanislas Cordova, a horror film director. He uncovered allegations of child abuse and witchcraft, but he is publicly disgraced when his source disappears and he is sued by the director.

Now, Cordova’s 24-year-old daughter, Ashley has committed suicide. McGrath, convinced he saw the beautiful, troubled Ashley following him the night she died, wants to find out what really happened. He investigates, collecting two accomplices along the way, Hopper, a young man who knew Ashley, and Nora, a 19-year-old girl who was one of the last people to see Ashley alive.  

Night Film is a mind-bending mystery and psychological thriller. Pessl invites you to investigate through McGrath’s first person viewpoint. It is unsettling, clever and original. McGrath, and you, the reader, are forced to question what you believe. Pessl adds ‘real’ documents, including newspaper and magazine articles, and website pages, to the story. It is both disturbing and entertaining.

Night Film is beautifully-written. Pessl’s intelligence shines through her words. She is profound and funny. The story is vivid and fresh and I read the 600-page novel in two days.

Amanda Patterson

Posted on: 29th November 2013