Run across websites for the director Stanislas Cordova, his oeuvre of horror films (which may or may not depict fictional events), their screenings in the Paris catacombs, or his cult following, and you’d have no reason to question their authenticity. You can see pages from these sites in Night Film (Random House, $28), the spellbinding second novel by Marisha Pessl, whose Special Topics in Calamity Physics similarly blended invented and actual evidence. Truth, for Pessl’s characters, is a matter of life and death; here, Scott McGrath, a journalist whose career was ruined when Cordova short-circuited a planned exposé, resumes his investigation when Cordova’s daughter commits suicide. As McGrath recreates her final weeks, the book begins as a classic noir thriller. Then the mystery deepens and the story goes gothic, complete with witchcraft, ancient curses, and satanic rituals. Pessl channels these various genres while keeping the action at a brisk New York City pace, and her wild, but never quite over-the-top storytelling is grounded in a serious consideration of the power and moral limits of art in shaping beliefs and, with them, reality.
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