Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl

I was so excited to begin reading this book, and that enthusiasm lasted about halfway through.  Then the book began to drag—on and on and on.  Also, this madcap mystery bears a striking resemblance to The Cuckoo's Calling, with about the same degree of absurdity.  Here the narrator is a journalist, Scott McGrath, who attracts a couple of hangers-on:  Nora—a coatcheck girl who was the last person to see Ashley alive—and Hopper, whom Scott encounters at the scene of Ashley's suicide.  Ashley was a former piano prodigy and the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, a film-noir director, whom Scott famously accused of criminal behavior years ago.  Scott wants to vindicate himself and recover his reputation by finding Cordova somehow responsible for Ashley's death.  Hopper has his own reasons for joining this quest, and I never figured out what Nora's motives were.  Scott has a diabolical sort of Alice in Wonderland adventure that may have actually happened and may have involved a significant amount of black magic, or may have been a wild hallucination.  One symbol that runs throughout the novel is that of "a tapeworm that's eaten its own tail."  Scott's pursuit of the truth here certainly falls into the category of a trail that seems to circle back on itself.  He meets lots of wacky characters (as did the afore-mentioned Alice) who lead him on the proverbial wild goose chase and then vanish into thin air.  The writing is impeccable ("It was a clear winter day with all the bounce and bright-eyed resilience of a teenager…, the two-day-old snow crunching like cake icing under our boots."); it's just not enough.

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