Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
This is the story of one of the most notorious unsolved murders in California history – probably in American history.
On 15th January 1947, the naked, dismembered body of a black-haired beauty, Elizabeth Short, was discovered lying next to a pavement in a Hollywood suburb. She was quickly nicknamed The Black Dahlia.
The homicide inquiry that followed consumed Los Angeles for years and the authorities blew millions of dollars of resources on an investigation that threw up dozens of suspects. But it never was solved.
The Black Dahlia murder is a fascinating mystery. The name alone is poetic and the setting – Hollywood at the height of the noir film genre, does the rest. Elizabeth Short’s body was found in 1947, gruesomely mutilated and drained of all blood.
The eyes, which were closed, seemed strangely peaceful in contrast to the mouth, which had been slashed from ear to ear in a satanic smile. Most shockingly of all, the body had been cut in half through the abdomen, under the ribs. The two sections were ten or twelve inches apart.
This book’s premis is daring: to analyze all the available evidence of the murder and potentially reveal the true murderer. Each chapter bears the name of a noir film of the time.
And the beginning was really great. Written in evokative language, it made the time come alive. It read like a film and I couldn’t wait to know more about Elizabeth and who killed her.
Hansen recalled that there had been many other crimes that year, at leat as horrific and with victims at least as attractive. But not one got the same attention. It was the name “Black Dahlia” that sparked a national obsession.
Unfortunately, the book got tedious towards the end and difficult to follow. It got too lost in details, names were thrown around with abandon and it was too focussed on one suspect. Sure, I admit, after reading the book he seems like the prime suspect and probably was Elizabeth’s murderer but then again, the book zeroed in on him from the beginning.
In the end, it also went off on strange tangents, like the random inclustion of a ghost story about Elizabeth Short.
It was a shame because the book, for the most part, is really fascinating and well-written.
A fascinating story with a great beginning, but it was a bit too lost in details towards the end.