Night Film

Marisha Pessl

Page-turning thrillers aren’t my usual pick, but this one was entertaining and at times hard to put down. The creepiness centers around a filmmaker who creates horrors so awfully scary, most of them were only released in underground venues (sometimes literally, like screenings in Paris’s catacombs). As the book opens, his daughter is found dead of an apparent suicide. A reporter who was attempting to write an exposé of the father months ago and wound up losing his career by saying too much in a live interview decides to ramp up his investigation again, suspecting that her death is not what it seems. He collects two younger sidekicks, somewhat improbably, and then they all run all over the place collecting clues. It’s actually pretty exhausting just reading about their constant dashing around. But they are strangely lucky that everyone they track down — even those who are distrustful of them or those who have good reasons not to share what they know — always give in and tell them something useful, plus their progress is largely free from the distractions of red herrings.

There are a lot of interesting threads in the story, but they are woven together rather hastily. If the pieces were fit together a bit more intricately, this could have been an amazing story. Yet the characters are still static and uninteresting for the most part, but at least the dead girl is compelling and mysterious, even if nearly no one else is. For me the story felt flattest at what should have been its apex, and I wound up skimming through to get past it. But like any good page-turner, the chapters aren’t very long and always hint enough about what’s coming next to encourage you to keep the lights on and continue reading. It’s also worth noting that Pessl is copious in her use of italics, so you won’t miss where to place the emphasis in nearly any sentence.