Excerpted from Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Copyright © 2013 by Marisha Pessl. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
“Night Film has been precision-engineered to be read at high velocity, and its energy would be the envy of any summer blockbuster. Your average writer of thrillers should lust for Pessl’s deft touch with character.”—Joe Hill, The New York Times Book Review
“Mysterious and even a little head-spinning, an amazing act of imagination.”—Dean Baquet, The New York Times Book Review
“Maniacally clever . . . Cordova is a monomaniacal genius who creeps into the darkest crevices of the human psyche. . . . As a study of a great mythmaker, Night Film is an absorbing act of myth-making itself. . . . Dastardly fun . . . The plot feels like an M. C. Escher nightmare about Edgar Allan Poe. . . . You’ll miss your subway stop, let dinner burn and start sleeping with the lights on.”—The Washington Post
“Haunting . . . a suspenseful, sprawling page-turner.”—USA Today
“Entrancing and delightful . . . [a] whipsmart humdinger of a thriller . . . It feels, above all things, new.”—The Boston Globe
“Gripping . . . a masterful puzzle . . . Pessl builds up real suspense.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A very deeply imagined book . . . sprints to an ending that’s equal parts nagging and haunting: What lingers, beyond all the page-turning, is a density of possible clues that leaves you leafing backward, scanning fictional blog comments and newspaper clippings, positive there’s some secret detail that will snap everything into focus.”—New York
“Hypnotic . . . The real and the imaginary, life and art, are dizzyingly distorted not only in a Cordova night film . . . but in Pessl’s own Night Film as well.”—Vanity Fair
“A literary mystery that’s also a page-turner . . . Night Film might be the most talked-about novel this summer.”—Time Out New York
“Noirish, impish and stylish, this literary thriller delivers twists, kinks and characters to care about. . . . Night Film gets two thumbs up.”—More
“You won’t put this book down.”—Marie Claire
“A shrewdly contemporary whodunit.”—W Magazine
“The sort of a top-shelf whodunit that thriller buffs dream of. Seriously, people, this is the Game of Thrones of murder mysteries.”—Out
“Night Film is an engrossing yarn, full of twists and cliffhangers. . . . Pessl handles Cordova’s menace superbly, keeping readers in thrall.”—The Economist
“It may be true, as the opening scene of the novel says, that everybody has a story about Cordova. But it’s hard to imagine any one that would be better than Night Film.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Screenshots of online news articles and the Cordovite fansite, as well as copies of mental hospital patient assessment forms and other official documents—all fictional—plus McGrath’s terror-filled imagination, pull the reader into Pessl’s masterfully played ruse. Pessl has matured into a cleverly entertaining writer who wields her strengths with greater precision than in Special Topics.”—The Kansas City Star
“A gothic thriller that’s among the best novels I’ve read this year.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Having finished Night Film, I now find myself a dedicated Cordovite.”—Rob Brunner, The New York Times Magazine
“A testament to Pessl’s tremendous gifts as a storyteller.”—Scott Smith, author of The Ruins
“A rare and wonderful thing—an ambitious novel that hits its target fair and square. Night Film is beautifully imagined, beautifully written, and hypnotically suspenseful.”—Lee Child, author of A Wanted Man
“This summer’s Gone Girl: a completely absorbing literary thriller.”—Library Journal
“Inventive . . . Think Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King meet Guillermo del Toro.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Seven years after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Pessl returns with a novel as twisted and intelligent as that lauded debut.”—Publishers Weekly
“Expands from a seemingly straightforward mystery into a multifaceted, densely byzantine exploration of much larger issues.”—Booklist (starred review)
1. Professor Wolfgang Beckman accuses Scott of having “no respect for the murk. For the blackly unexplained. The un-nail downable.” How does Scott’s perspective on mystery and the “blackly unexplained” change over the course of the novel?
2. Nora asks Scott, “How much evidence do you need before you wonder if it just might be real?” Do you think Scott’s skepticism is a mark of pride, as well as rationality, as Nora suggests? Why does he wish to believe in the curse after his conversation with Inez Gallo? How ready were you to believe in the curse?
3. Scott is relentless in his pursuit of the truth about Cordova. How far would you have gone, in his situation? Is there a point at which you would have stopped pursuing the truth?
4. Cordova’s films were filled with such horror and violence that, in many cases, they were banned from theaters. What is your perspective on violence—its role and its effects—in movies today?
5. Cordova’s philosophy is in many ways antithetical to our modern world, where transparency, over-sharing and social media are the norm. Did you feel drawn to Cordova’s philosophy, or repelled, or both? Why?
6. Discuss how Scott advertently or inadvertently involved his daughter Samantha in his investigation. What did you think of the role she wound up playing, in his discovery?
7. How does your perception of Scott change, from the beginning to the end of the novel?
8. What did you think of the evolution of Nora and Scott’s relationship?
9. Both Scott and Nora reflect on the power of memory and story to alter the way we relate to our experiences. Scott says: “It was never the act itself but our own understanding of it that defeated us, over and over again.” Nora says: “The bad things that happen to you don’t have to mean anything at all.” Do you agree?
10. Beckman says “Every one of us has our box, a dark chamber stowing the thing that lanced our heart.” Consider Nora, Hopper, Ashley, Cordova, and Scott. What do their boxes contain, and in what ways do these secrets motivate them? Imprison them?
11. What do you think helped Hopper come to peace with Ashley’s memory?
12. New York City is just as much a character in the novel as any one person. How does your personal experience of, or relationship with, the city affect your reading?
13. How did the visual elements throughout the book enhance or impact your reading experience?