The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Ever since I read American Tabloid I’ve always looked forward to picking up another Ellroy novel, his ability to pull you into the era – in this case late 1940s L.A. – is second to none, as is his ability to pace the story perfectly and plant enough seeds that you develop his characters for him.

The story of a brutally murdered woman and the cop that tries to solve her case leads us into a tangled web of corruption, intrigue and… well you can get all that from the blurb on the cover. What Ellroy consistently produces is a well crafted plotline, full of curveballs, smacking you hard in the gut when he drops the chops on how it played out.

If you’ve read any of his other novels you’ll feel at home in this macho world where when hit hard, and dames play the sass to perfection. The grime oozes from the pages as you fall deeper into the story and next thing you know it’s playing out like nothing you thought. He seems to take a perverse pleasure at crafting stories which give you all the clues but that you’ll never solve – allowing some empathy with the lead character.

At times brutal and over the top in many aspects, Ellroy manages to portray the film noir scenes perfectly, knows when to speed things up, and what he can leave up to the reader. Case in point – early on in this book there is a boxing match, whilst reading it on the train I could feel myself racing through the passages, caught up in the fight itself and willing the lead character to win.

Not a book for everyone, but if you’ve never read any Ellroy this is a great place to start. Be warned though, once you’ve read one, you’ll want to read another.