Book Review: THE BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1)The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Black Dahlia is a fictionalized account of the investigation into the real life torture, mutilation, and murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. It is appropriately dark and deeply disturbing. On balance, I thought it was quite well done. It was consistently engaging and sufficiently challenging throughout. It is not loads of fun unless you really embrace the darkness. No one comes off well here. There are brutish cops, sleazy criminals, unchecked racism, violence, deception, betrayal, and perversion throughout. Just like real life, I suppose, but concentrated and unrelenting. My predilection is towards the light-hearted and comic. I can’t fault this novel on my preferences though.

Ellroy does a remarkable job detailing the post-war moral ambivalence in which this particular crime found a home. The only complaint I had, and I can’t really call it such as the narrative depends on it, is that the protagonist, Bucky Bleichert, seems too articulate and too introspective to be what he is, a twenty-something former boxer become rookie LA cop. If you can suspend that bit of disbelief and stand total immersion in an environment of cloying depravity, then I can highly recommend this novel. It succeeds very well according to it’s own aims, and it will leave you thoughtful, which is more than most books can say.

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