Ashley Cordova, daughter of notorious horror director Stanslas Cordova, has committed suicide. For Scott McGrath, an investigative reporter left disgraced by loose lips regarding the Cordova empire, this raises a ton of questions. With the help of Nora and Hopper, he intends to find answers to those questions and reveal Cordova as he truly is.
I am not going to make any friends with this review. I understand people love this book generally, but I really did not. Some gimmicky, House-of-Leaves-esque interactivity is not enough to make a book worthwhile. You need so much more that this book lacked.
For starters, you need some engaging characters that feel like real people. Pessl was very fond of giving elaborate backstories that took pages upon pages to see their end, but still managed to fail at giving any of the characters a unique voice. Every single person we encounter, whether integral to the plot or not, is a cliche. Facts are not all that make up a person’s life or even what makes them interesting. There should be a depth that reaches beyond that, and it wasn’t here, not for a single one of them.
Then there’s the writing style. It felt pretty purple for a mystery/thriller. The way that the narrator, Scott, insisted on wording his own thoughts and reaching for elaborate metaphors reminded me of a noir detective, but it wasn’t charming. Rather it seemed desperately out of place in a story meant to be set in 2011. And the italics. What was with all the italics? I imagined Scott straining on every other word, and it took me out of the prose so fast.
And the mystery. That was the one thing I was holding on to. It even took a really great turn, where things started to seem supernatural. I was so invested in simply discovering how right or wrong these assumptions were. Then it just peters out. It winds around pointlessly, scary things happen that probably weren’t real, and then it ends on the most frustrating note in human history.
I don’t want to turn this into a rant, but this was one of those times when I listened to the majority, hoping that a large group of people had to be right on some level. I don’t really know what conclusion to come to in that regard, but I know I’ll hesitate the next time a book gets popular as fast as this did. And the most butt-blisteringly awful thing about all this? It could’ve been great. It had the recipe, but it put in too much of this and too little of that and botched the whole thing.