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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, August 2013 - I don’t often find myself interested in literary psychological thrillers, but the early buzz on Night Film – a dark novel by Marisha Pressl (of Special Topics in Calamity Physics fame) – was enough to pique my interest. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that’s legitimately creeped me out, and this novel opens with a ghost story that set the tone. I’ve only just started reading the book, and it already feels like something bad is lurking on the every page. Scott McGrath is a shamed journalist who takes a new interest in an old case when his former subject’s daughter turns up dead at the bottom of an abandoned building’s elevator shaft. The book hinges on Scott’s investigation into the victim’s family, particularly her reclusive filmmaking father, who put Scott out of business in the first place. It’s an absolutely chilling page-turner and will be even more frightening in audio. —Chris, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Brilliant, haunting, breathtakingly suspenseful, Night Film is a superb literary thriller by the New York Times best-selling author of the "blockbuster debut" (People) Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive, cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova - a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than 30 years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

Night Film, the gorgeously written, spellbinding new novel by the dazzlingly inventive Marisha Pessl, will hold you in suspense to the final minute.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Marisha Pessl (P)2013 Random House Audio

What members say

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  • Sally
  • SAINT LOUIS, MO, United States
  • 09-08-13

Good premise - Way too long - Awful ending

I thought the premise of the story was interesting and i liked the creepy tone. I was hooked for a while, but it went on way too long. Some of the sequences were tangents that didn't move the story forward. Also, she repeated some stories more than once. I think the author needed a better editor. The ending was disappointing and seemed lazy - like the author couldn't be bothered to resolve things, so she just ended the book. That cost the book a star or two for me. I thought the narrator was really good.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • jackie
  • LAS VEGAS, NV, United States
  • 09-01-13

"THOUGHT IT WOULD - BUT LEAD NOWHERE."

What disappointed you about Night Film?

Being lead on for so long.

Has Night Film turned you off from other books in this genre?

Don't know

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narrator was good.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Stupidity, plus, going through the property, Booooring. If you got to meet some of the characters the story revolved around "Somewhere" along the way it might have been more tolerable. You were just lead on a wild goose chase to "nowhere."

Any additional comments?

A grown man hanging with two kids was dumb. A guy wasting his time trying to redeem himself for What??? An ex-wife that had no purpose in the story, and a daughter who, as well, served no purpose. I'd think he was a bad father too.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • Bartonville, TX
  • 08-25-13

Unforgettable Rabbit Hole Mystery

Wow, what a ride. If I did not have to sleep I would have listened to this extraordinary mystery/thriller, (with a movie literature relation), without interruption.

Scott McGrath a disgraced journalist that can't help himself, reopens his investigation into the story that destroyed his career/ life years before. Scott must get to the bottom of an anonymous phone call that started the original investigation of Cordova, a snuff film producer, director. The caller insinuated that Cordova, a recluse, may be actually hurting children or worse for his films. Eight years, and two hundred and fifty thousand dollars retribution later the suicide of Cordova's daughter draws Scott back onto an almost deliberate path that leads him staight to a dark rabbit hole that he had luckily avoided the first time. Scott is pulled into a sinister mystery behind fame, excess, obsession, cult, private sex clubs, murder, witchcraft, black voodoo magic, etc..... Quoting the Cheshire Cat, "we're all mad here".

During his investigation he comes across two very unlikely characters that insist on taking the path with him: a drug and alcohol addicted charmer and a homeless young wannabe actress. As the story unfolds the circumstances leading up to the young girls suicide start to help them understand the whole big, inconceivable picture.

The narrator did an excellent job, I felt connected with the characters and did not get tired of his voice at all during the twenty three hour listen. This book is a great twisted thriller that has ups and downs galore. Just when you think..........? Don't.. Highly recommend.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Kimberly
  • Kalaheo, HI, United States
  • 09-09-13

Save yourself the irritation!

As several reviewers mentioned (read their reviews way too far into my listening) this book suffers from a lethal lack of editing. What could have been an average but entertaining 6-10 hour story is a 22 hour monstrosity of mediocrity. I sufffer from a stupid need to find out "how it ends" and so I listened to this entire rambling, shambling, shuffling concept of a mystery, and was so irritated by the experience I am writing my first review. I have no idea how this book got the positive ratings it did. The author spends a huge amount of time trying to build this sense of dark, intense intrigue about this film maker character and his eccentric and possibly evilly disturbed actions. I found I really didn't care about any of these characters-the film maker, his tragedy of a daughter whom the entire quest revolves around, or any of the "detectives" that assist the protaganist on his baffling quest for I am not sure what, even at the end of the 22 hours. Seriously. I do not know what he was looking for. A story? That's how poorly this thing is pieced together. Several points of sublime irritation came when the author summarily dumps a couple main characters after their adventure to the spooky mansion/estate. I was never quite sure why these characters were interested in this guy to begin with, but the author insisted they were so I accepted them in our little story world. And then apparently they got bored or tired or disenfranchised in some way and bailed, to be seen only in a brief reunion where none of the information they were so passionately seeking was even a topic of discussion. Wow.

I suppose it is a positive thing to say this woman makes me want to write a mystery, because if this is what gets rave reviews, I'm a Pulitzer winner in the making.

Save yourself the headache, the money and the 22 hours and grab a Stephen King or a Jack Reacher or the new JK Rowling under whatever name. Infinitely more satisfying on every level.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Abandoning ship!

If you're planning to buy this book regardless of reviews, don't read this; I don't want to prejudice your listening experience. You may do just fine.

I was looking forward to this book so much; I loved Special Topics and really enjoyed Marisha Pessl's writing style. I've stopped halfway through this book, however, and can't go further (though I would like to know the ending). The story is good. The writing, however, is not. Because this is a detective noir novel, perhaps the author wrote this way on purpose, but the writing to me is hackneyed and cliched, with clunky dialogue. The characters take far too long to realize what is obvious to the reader, and when they do, Pessl tends to pound the nail in a few extra times in case we didn't get it. Many aspects of the investigation defy belief, and I'm not talking about the black magic elements. The action seems to arise from the author's need to get certain information across rather than from the nature of the characters; I had trouble believing in the characters and their reactions. The writing is clumsy. Does anyone edit anymore?

The narrator is a reasonable choice for a noir novel; he sounds the part, certainly. He has an irritating tendency. To break sentences into fragments. Rather than allowing them to flow. Which obstructs their meaning. And one has to think about what was just said. Then put it all together. I'm not sure anyone could have done a good job with this dialogue; it's just mediocre, but I felt the narrator overemphasized emotional moments; this coupled with the author's overemphasis made me feel like someone was pounding the novel into my head with a 2 x 4.

19 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • Los Angeles
  • 11-09-17

Great performance, mediocre story

The performance is really good but the storytelling is a bit lacking. A lot of stuff just told in flashback, and takes a really long time to get to the point. Not really a satisfying ending.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim N
  • Chicago, IL
  • 07-02-17

A Thriller That Doesn't Thrill

I purchased Night Film a few years ago, started it, and then set it aside. It wasn't grabbing me at the time. I recently decided to revisit it and this time, I persisted.

It's a problematic book. The plot is certainly intriguing: the daughter of an eccentric, mysterious auteur named Stanislas Cordova is found dead after an apparent suicide and a determined reporter whose career was derailed after his previous investigation into Cordova starts digging for the truth behind her death. Along the way, he meets a young man and woman with connections to the deceased and they act as their own little "Scooby gang", investigating both the mystery of the young woman's death and the mysterious Cordova himself.

There are hints of a cult, of dark secrets, of irresponsible, horrible manipulation in the service of art, and so on. The reader is continually reminded that Cordova was an honored genius. Characters who were in his films, who knew him, who worked closely with him, etc. are introduced and reintroduced, telling their stories to the investigators and deepening the mystery around the man. This storytelling technique is repeated often enough that the author makes the mistake of doing a lot of telling and not enough showing, an approach that's not only unsatisfying but not particularly thrilling or scary. The sense of dread Marisha Pessl is attempting to create never quite materializes, although there is an extended sequence in the final third of the book that led me to believe, momentarily, it was all going to come together and finish with a bang. Unfortunately, the "bang" never arrived.

Night Film's pacing is uneven. I found the characters flat and the ending anticlimactic. The answers we ultimately get don't really satisfy and that would be fine if the remaining mystery was more intriguing.

Narrator Jake Weber does a nice job with the material (enough that I bumped the overall rating up a star) but in the end, Night Film just didn't work for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Couldn't finish it. Total dud. And I tried...

I made it through nearly half of this book because I kept hoping it would improve but it didn't. Just ridiculous, impossible to follow, etc., etc. I had hopeful but it was not worth a credit and moreso, not worth my time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Drew me in......

Where does Night Film rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very good story. It was a very thorough storyline. The narrator depicted emotions of characters very well. I couldn't stop listening. There were many twists and turns that kept me at the edge of my seat the entire story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Way too long

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This book is way too long. Its one thing to give background information or build the characters, but having to learn the plot and characters of every movie made by Cardova, even hours into the book, is too much. The plot needs to move, not merely continue to go over details of the producer's movies. I gave up after about 100 chapters.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful