Monday, November 15, 2010

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy - Book Review #114

Monday, November 15, 2010
The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy

On January 15, 1947, the tortured body of a beautiful young woman was found in a vacant lot in Hollywood. Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, a young Hollywood hopeful, had been brutally murdered. Her murder sparked one of the greatest manhunts in California history.

In this fictionalized treatment of a real case, Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, both LA cops obsessed with the Black Dahlia, journey through the seamy underside of Hollywood to the core of the dead girl's twisted life.

Cherchez la femme” is a phrase that became international. It is a phrase that has thousands of meanings; can be used and was used in thousands of different situations. However, at the same time it still has the same and the only meaning: “Cherchez la femme.” Ellroy wasn’t the first and not going to be the last author to use this phrase, to build pretty much the whole plot on this phrase. In Ellroy’s The Black DahliaCherchez la femme” radiates with different meanings at every point of the story and still, every time, it stays the same, old, overused, cliché phrase. Paradox? – Most certainly.

I expected to love The Black Dahlia – a fictionalized version of world known, horrific, unsolved murder. So many people loved the book and so many described it as glue that will hold you to your chair until you are done and as a fastest page flipper until the very end. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see anything special in this book – some parts were interesting, some were boring; sometimes I couldn’t stop reading, other times I was finding every excuse not to read it.

There were some aspects that I liked about the book: it was very atmospheric; I learned a lot of 40th slang, in particular 40th cops’ slang. There were also aspects that drove me away from this book: for some reason I didn’t care enough about characters; the book started very slow and it took sixty pages for plot to start unveiling; I didn’t feel any suspense until the almost very end – the whole story read like unconnected, isolated events. No, at the end, fortunately, they all come into one whole piece (the moment when the book actually became glue and a page flipper).

Bottom line – The Black Dahlia turned out to be precisely what it was: suspense, noir, detective story, nothing more – nothing less. It was nothing very significant, however it wasn’t awful either. If you are into noir fiction or you are interested in fictionalized version of Black Dahlia case, check this book out. For everyone else, I would advise to pass on this book. Paradox? – Certainly not.


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