Book Review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Los Angeles, 10th January 1947: a beautiful young woman walked into the night and met her horrific destiny.

Five days later, her tortured body was found drained of blood and cut in half. The newspapers called her ‘The Black Dahlia’. Two cops are caught up in the investigation and embark on a hellish journey that takes them to the core of the dead girl’s twisted life… 

Based on a true story from the 1940’s that was never solved, The Black Dahlia was the nickname given to a murdered young woman found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles . There were plenty of suspects and confessions but still remains unsolved to this day.

It did take me some time to get into, it was quite a long winded beginning before the actual murder was discovered and because of where and when it is was set there is a lot of American language and slang – quite a few I hadn’t heard of. I did have to look up some of them but then I just read round them and could still follow the plot. This book is about obsession, corruption, is sexually explicit, goes into some detail of the crime scene and of torture – so some gruesome reading, probably not for the faint hearted; oh and it’s quite racist aswell – but I suppose this was to be expected with being set in the Forties.

I couldn’t tell where fact ends and fiction begins and I guess this is testament to Ellroy’s research and writing skills. There isn’t a part in the book that seems unbelievable and the ending seems very plausible. Infact, I really like the ending and didn’t see the twist coming.

One criticism I have and I don’t believe this to be down to the author, I don’t know if it was just this copy of the book but there were several mistakes throughout – missing letters, incorrect words used, this didn’t really detract from the story but it is quite annoying.

Overall this is a good thriller, not one I’d usually pick but made a change… and am now off to watch the movie adaptation!