Review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

07 Jul

I read this book for my book club M. Our discussion tonight did shift my opinion of it a little bit, I’ll put these notes at the end of this review.

The Black Dahliarating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a dark read. I like characters with shades of grey, but I need some light grey in with the blacker shades.

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.

This book didn’t have enough points of light for me. I didn’t feel that the darkness brought any new perspectives to me, or that I learned from in. I just felt it was dark for the sake of being dark, and that just isn’t my kind of book.

I think the writing must have been good for the book to affect me so strongly.  If it wasn’t I just wouldn’t have cared.  I didn’t appreciate it, though.

I did think the mystery was interesting, enough so to save it from being a 2 star book, but it was close.

After our book club discussion

We had 5 of us at our book club meeting.  4 of us were underwhelmed by the book for slightly different reasons, mostly relating to its darkness.  1 was really loving the book (she was the one that suggested it), but was only halfway through, so could only contribute to parts of the conversation.

We had a reasonably good discussion of the book– not one of the best, not one of the worst.  We spent quite a bit of the time looking for positive notes in the book.  I think by the time I was 2/3 through I was worn down enough by the dark to not really notice the light.  After our discussion, I felt somewhat more positive toward Bucky (the narrator) and one of the minor characters.  I think if I’d been in a different place while reading it, I might have appreciated it a little more.

This shift doesn’t change my 3 star rating, but moves it a little further from the 2 star border.


Posted by on July 7, 2009 in Book Club, books, M, reviews


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4 responses to “Review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

  1. Sue

    July 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for the review – I’ve heard about this book before. I also appreciated hearing about your book group’s response to it.

    Most of all, though, I loved what you said: “I like characters with shades of grey, but I need some light grey in with the blacker shades.”

    That’s great and describes what I like in a book, too!


  2. lirebookgroup

    December 7, 2011 at 5:30 am

    My book club is meeting tonight to dicsuss The Black Dahlia – I was the one that suggested but must admin have been a little dissapointed – finding it, yes, too dark but also the language at times being unpenetrable.
    Great reviews….


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