Steven Poole is left stunned by this postmodern horror-movie novel. But not in a good wayHow do you conjure an air of mystery and dread in a novel? Marisha Pessl, in this followup to her much-praised debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, has apparently decided that the best way to do it is for the characters to tell one another how mysterious and dreadful everything is. If they keep doing that for nearly 600 pages, the reader will surely succumb.Offstage throughout is a horror-film director, Stanislas Cordova, described variously as “legendary” or even “a myth”. A cross between Stanley Kubrick and Dario Argento, the reclusive Cordova is renowned for peculiar working practices, enormous sensual appetites, and the terrifying nature of his movies, most of which are only available as bootlegs. Now his beautiful, mysterious and “intense” daughter, Ashley, has died in possibly dodgy circumstances. Enter our hero and narrator, disgraced fortysomething writer Scott McGrath, who decides to investigate.I say “hero”, but Scott is plainly a bit of an idiot. On the basis of a single anonymous phone call he had once – on live TV – more or less accused Cordova of being a child-murderer, and was then surprised to …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books