Becky’s Eighty-Sixth Book Review: “The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy

“The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy was an interesting read. Unless you’ve lived in an extremely remote setting where you hear nothing of infamous crimes, you know who “The Black Dahlia” is. On January 15th, 1947 the severely mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, nicknamed “The Black Dahlia”, was discovered in a vacant lot. She had been severed at the waist, her mouth was slashed to her ears creating a ‘glasglo smile’, her body was covered in torture marks including cuts, rope burns, and the removal of chunks of skin and her body was drained of blood. Pretty brutal. Although this happened back in 1947, the case is still unsolved despite the fact that there have been many people who confessed to the crime. James Ellroy took this real event and created a crime noir around it with “The Black Dahlia”. The book has been turned into a movie which I haven’t seen for such a long time that I am not going to evaluate it.

I enjoy reading ‘true crime’ novels and as an aspiring murder-mystery writer, books such as “The Black Dahlia” can fall into the category of research. I wasn’t blown away by Ellroy’s novel, but it was interesting and gave a different perspective on the unsolved crime. There were times where I had to struggle through the book, but right when I was about to put it down and find something else to read, the plot would pick up again and I would have to keep reading. This happened several times throughout the novel.

While “The Black Dahlia” does revolve around the murder of Elizabeth Short, the main character of Ellroy’s novel is Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert. Bucky is one of the many police officers who gets assigned to the “Black Dahlia” murder along with his partner, Lee Blanchard. In Ellroy’s version, Bucky eventually finds out who killed Elizabeth Short, but is unable to bring them to justice for a couple reasons. I don’t want to give too much away in case you do chose to read this. We do learn a lot about Bucky and Lee’s relationship and the woman that they’re both in love with. I think Ellroy developed his characters very well and overall I think this was a good read. It just probably isn’t something that I’ll be picking up again anytime soon. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who do not enjoy reading true crime novels and I also do not think this would be a good read for someone who doesn’t have a great attention span.  

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