Well. I thought reading The Black Dahlia was grim work, but then I Google-imaged ‘black dahlia’ to get the book cover to the left, and ended up with a photo of the real Black Dahlia’s real butchered face. Learn from my mistakes, folks.
Comparisons with hand-carved grins aside, James Ellroy’s novel is incredibly bleak. I hadn’t seen the movie, but I usually assume that if a story is worth spending millions of dollars on to render on-screen, then it’s worth a few hours of my time. In many ways, The Black Dahlia didn’t disappoint. It’s one of those novels that, when you’re not reading it, you’re thinking about what’s going on and trying to solve it in your mind, and wondering what the characters are up to in your absence.
It’s also one of those novels that makes you feel like you need a shower.
Based on the true, unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia follows two detective-partners who become obsessed with the case, each for his own reason. For Lee, it’s the kid sister who went missing years back when he was supposed to be watching her, and who he’s sure was snuffed out. For Bucky, the draw runs much deeper, and I won’t pretend to psychoanalyze the fellow here and now. Suffice it to say that both men end up over their heads in a gruesome and complicated murder.
I knew that the real Dahlia’s murder was never solved, and that sort of had me on edge the entire book. Was Ellroy going to leave me hanging? I hate that. I need some sort of resolution. If you’re going to bother opening the brackets, (I need you to shut them. Bless his heart, Ellroy made up an ending that brought me closure and let me sleep at night. Except that it didn’t, because it was creepy and involved organs in jars. But if that doesn’t gross you out, and mysteries are your thang, then this is the book for you.
Also, I will not be able to sleep unless I shut these brackets.)