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The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy - Book Review

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Black Dahlia - Courtesy Warner Books

The Bottom Line

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is an exquisitely written book of murder and obsession that takes the true details of the unsolved 1947 Elizabeth Short murder and creates a fictional story of a police detective determined to solve the case. The Black Dahlia is a page turning mystery novel, but it is also much more. Ellroy uses the story to delve into the dark recesses of the human psyche and force the reader to deal with obsession, evil, right and wrong.
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  • Ellroy's writing is superb -- every word counts
  • The characters in The Black Dahlia are well developed and complex
  • The mystery surrounding Elizabeth Short's murder makes a good story
  • Lots of plot twists and turns make The Black Dahlia a good mystery novel


  • Graphic murder descriptions & sex make this inappropriate for younger readers


  • Fact: On January 15, 1947 the mutilated, severed body of Elizabeth Short was found Los Angeles
  • Fact: Elizabeth Short's murder is one of the highest profile unsolved cases in California history
  • The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy uses facts from the case to create a story of mystery & obsession

Guide Review - The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy - Book Review

James Ellroy's Black Dahlia is a masterpiece among murder mystery novels. Ellroy tells Elizabeth Short's story through Bucky Bleichert, a young police officer who is assigned to investigate the Black Dahlia murder. Over time, Bucky becomes obsessed with learning all the details of Elizabeth Short's life. His obsession resurrects old demons and forces him to deal with hard truths in every relationship that matters to him.

Bucky's fascination with the murder is contagious, and as a reader I found myself wanting to know more about the true Elizabeth Short and the fictional version of her in the book. I had to read on to find out what would happen, but even after I had finished the book the Black Dahlia kept creeping into my mind.

The Black Dahlia is, however, Bucky's story as much as Elizabeth's. Bucky is a flawed protagonist who does things that no "good guy" would ever do, yet manages to be a hero who you want to win. Bucky's obsession takes him to the edge of madness, and Ellroy takes the reader along on that journey. Along the way we get to experience the seedy underside of post-World War II Hollywood, a place full of violence, sex and dishonesty.

The Black Dahlia is not light reading, but it is good reading. It will entertain and intrigue anyone daring enough to pick up the book and enter Ellroy's world.

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