Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy




The Black Dahlia
James Ellroy
Warner Books

Mystery/Noir

Taking inspiration from a real unsolved case, James Ellroy fashions a possible solution and an absolute masterpiece of noir detective fiction. Part of a sort of quartet of L.A. novels that includes L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, this novel takes all that is great about noir and mystery and improves upon it.

In 1947, the battered, mutilated body of a lovely young aspiring actress named Betty Short was found in an empty lot in Los Angeles. Detectives Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard were assigned to the case. The case became an obsession for both men. The two, rivals for the affections of the same woman, were now even more tightly entwined by the dead woman, dubbed Black Dahlia, and their inability to let go of the case. The search for her killer leads them through Hollywood’s seamier side and through their own inner selves.

This author does not deal in happy endings. The characters are all flawed, some fatally and disgustingly so. Not many of them are very likeable. But they’re all very realistic, undeniably human, and none of them emerges from the case unscathed. The author excels at evoking this period of time, complete with language, locations, and attitudes that have, for the most part, now passed into obscurity. The cast of characters is huge, and there are any number of twists to this tale. A story that’s not easy to read; a book that’s impossible to forget.

Rating: 9 ½
September 2006 (reissue)
ISBN# 0-446-61812-8 (paperback)

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