The premise of this story is pretty amazeballs: What would happen if David Lynch’s daughter committed suicide (or was murdered…) and Mikael Blomkvist took up the case? Essentially, that’s Night Film, the second novel by Pessl. Disgraced journalist (is there any other kind these days?) Scott McGrath is kicking around Manhattan trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life after having been sued by Stanislas (you can’t spell “stanislas” without “satan”) Cordova over a bad piece of writing. McGrath suspects Cordova, a reclusive film auteur who has driven a few actors insane, may be doing naughty things to children on his palatial estate. When Ashley, Stanislas’ daughter, is found dead, McGrath becomes obsessed with proving she died because of her father’s dark habits.
The novel is about the journey and how McGrath figures out the mystery. Like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this journalist teams up with a willful and strange young woman who is attracted to the silver fox. Also on their team is Ashley’s former beau, a troubled young man who just can’t stand still. But the story is also a noir novel about film noir, a meta-study of the tropes of the most bizarre filmmakers, people like Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowski or Dario Argento. If you’re a film buff you’ll love it.
There are some cool scenes in here. My favorite was McGrath’s drug-addled run through Cordova’s film studio, where sets from his old movies have been preserved for all time. And the creepy Oubliette sex club on Long Island.
Generally, I enjoy long books (this one’s 600 pages). But it felt 75 pages too heavy, especially toward the end.
Speaking of the end, holy smokes! It was as sovereign, deadly, and perfect as one of Cordova’s films.