Marisha Pessl. I bought this two or three years ago, and I'm not sure what attracted me to it. I think it was probably the cover or the discounted price. I'm certain I picked this up from a bargain bin at Barnes & Noble.
The cover certainly hints at something ominous. Something sinister is going on with the woman on the cover. She did something or something happened to her. When I bought this and when I finally started reading this book, I was convinced there had to be a great story ahead. After 600-plus pages, this was a bit of a mixed bag.
Young Ashley Cordova is dead. Her death is ruled a suicide, but bulldog investigative reporter Scott McGrath is not convinced. Scott is certain there is more to the story, possibly even foul play. Ashley is the daughter of the reclusive horror director Stanislas Cordova. Scott has come up against Stanislas before. He once tried to expose the celebrated director's sinister lifestyle and film career, even going so far as to compare Stanislas to cult leaders like Jim Jones and Charles Manson. Actors on his films were worked to the point of exhaustion and even mental breakdowns. But no one will ever go on the record. Stanislas has followers that would do anything and everything for him, including protecting him from people like Scott. The pursuit of Stanislas turned out to be a big failure, leading Scott to become a pariah in the journalism world. That is until Ashley's death. Solving the mystery surrounding Ashley's death could be Scott's ticket to redemption or it could be his downfall.
McGrath's life is in shambles. One day melts into the next. He's estranged from just about everyone in his life. He loves his young daughter, Samantha, but barely makes an effort to spend time with her. It doesn't seem like Scott should be going down the Cordova rabbit hole, but he is. One tip leads to another, and another, and another. Enough clues to fill 600 pages. Along the way Scott gets some help, forming his own squad--reminiscent of Woodward and Bernstein in their pursuit of the Watergate scandal. Yes, Woodward and Bernstein are a running gag throughout the book. Youngins Nora and Hopper, both with connections to Ashley, join the investigation.
It's hard to know what type of book this was trying to be. Horror? Literary? Mystery? Magical Realism? I didn't even get to the mixed media component of the book. Throughout there are fake newspaper articles, magazine articles, web pages, and photographs. They're supposed to enhance the story and there used to be a website/app for the book, but it looks like that's no longer active. The articles, links, and photographs are another character, an annoying character. They don't enhance the story, they slow it down. There are parts of this book that are really good, but some that are just boring, slow, and unnecessary. If this book had 200 less pages, it would have made for a better read. For all of the pages, the final payoff was a big letdown. Without giving too much away, the true story behind Ashley's downfall was not what I was expecting at all. After investing so much time I was disappointed in the ending. Looking at this as a whole, I felt like the whole investigation was pointless because it led to nothing!
Rating: Give it a try