Night Film, Marisha Pessl's second novel, is just as intriguingly weird as her first, if not more so. On the face of it, it sounds like a relatively straightforward murder-mystery: Ashley Cordova, daughter of elusive, legendary horror film director Stanislas Cordova, is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft; Scott McGrath, disgraced investigative journalist who has had a run-in with the Cordovas before, is On The Case.
But Cordova's world is weird, and the novel quickly descends from routine, Midsomer Murders-style investigation into a kaleidoscopic, paranoid frieze of black magic, horror and illusion.
What I really loved about Night Film is the way it creates all the creepy atmosphere of a horror film without any actual horror. There's nothing here that should keep you up at night - no monsters hiding under the beds, no really graphic violence, no axe-wielding psychopaths - but it does. That horror is there, vaguely, in the settings (creepy, tumbledown mansions, forgotten rooms of New York City, rocky windswept beaches at night), in the characters, most of whom are mad or who have fallen into the corners of life, and most of all in the myths surrounding Cordova and his fans, who use a top-secret Internet forum called the Blackboards which can only be found by those who already know where it is.
It's a novel, too, that keeps going: once you think you have found one answer, up pops another one, and another, receding down to a vanishing point, asking whether anyone can really know anything, and whether they actually need to.
There are a couple of annoying things - mainly the fact that Pessl apparently needs to use italics literally every other word (but this is a stylistics thing that I quickly got used to), and that McGrath appears to have unlimited amounts of cash - and I suspect there will be people who hate this with a passion. But I loved it. And I'll go so far as to say that I'll probably be thinking about it for a long while.