Infested by savorless extrinsic description, blunt investigation “The Black Dahlia” dissipates one of the most gruesome and publicised murder.

The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy
Genre – Crime, Detective, Thriller, Suspense, Murder Mystery
Author – James Ellroy
Rating – 3 Stars Out Of 5


On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia-and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history.Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia-driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of post-war Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl's twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches-into a region of total madness.


I picked this book when I read about “The Black Dahlia” stuff on Wikipedia. It intrigued me, I wanted to read more and I could find this book which is an adaptation of original “The Black Dahlia” murder. It is one of the oldest unsolved murders in the Los Angeles history. In my honest opinion this book doesn’t justify the grisly murder.

Plot summary of the book says that two friends Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard are to investigate the murder. I was amused at the way author developed the friendship between these two protagonists at the beginning of the book. It was something new for a crime fiction novel. I could read the development of the friendship till some time but then the book was not holding my intrigue at all. The book was revolving around Bleichert-Blanchard duo, their rivalry, boxing match between them and all extrinsic stuff. I picked this book for “The Black Dahlia”, I had completed almost 19% of the book and still no mention of it. A  sheer disappointment.

After finishing almost 21% of the book, first mention of “The Black Dahlia” appeared. The crime scene description seemed blunt. The body of the woman is found half mutilated at waist and maimed severely. Though the crime was disturbing, the description could not quiver me nor it could intrigue me. I felt that “Red Dragon” of Thomas Harris, “The Bone Collector” of Jeffery Deaver were much more ghastly and grotesque. This was the first mention of “The Black Dahlia” and again it ended here only. For next many pages the whole story was revolving around the same insipid witness alibi and cross questioning. It was a plain black and white description. It seemed more of a newspaper story spanning for 2-3 weeks. In my honest opinion James Ellroy failed to fictionalise the gruesome killing.

After almost 71% completion, the book picked the pace. James Ellroy finally succeeded in  sticking in the intrigue in the plot. But till that time I had lost interest in the book. I was simply forcing myself to complete the book. But I can’t deny the fact that “The Black Dahlia” becomes gripping towards the end. It is hard to put down the book at this moment. The twist towards the end, complete reversal in the plot and vivid disturbing nature of the “The Black Dahlia” kept me engaged.

The book is infested by unneeded description of Bleichert-Blanchard friendship, insipid alibi of the witnesses and extrinsic details which derail the book from the main plot. It becomes interesting only after it has finished almost 75%. Had James Ellroy kept only the last part of the book with little background of Bleichert-Blanchard duo, it would have been a perfect crime fiction.

Even though I did not like the book, I would say that James Ellroy has potential to emerge as the promising crime fiction writer. I liked the dialogues. Though the plot lacked brevity, it still had entertaining witty dialogues. I would read one more book of this author before I make my mind about James Ellroy‘s writing potential.

Rating & Conclusion

I would NOT RECOMMEND this book to book lover. This book is not entirely about “The Black Dahlia” murder, it has many un-necessary events which make the plot insipid. I would rate “The Black Dahlia” 3 stars out of 5.

Posted by: Pravin Patil
Last revised: 31 Jan, 2014 02:44 PM


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