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James Ellroy
337 Pages
Publisher: Mysterious Press Movie Tie-in Edition (August 2006)
ISBN: 075153966X
Price: S$27.95 (Available in Borders)






The general reviews for the movie version of this book haven’t been too kind. While this reviewer hadn’t had the opportunity to catch the film on the big screen himself, he had periodically been thinking how disastrous the Brian De Palmer-directed vehicle could have been, given the intriguing premise of the novel.

And when he was at the last page of the book, he realized it was probably a classic case of reality not meeting initial expectations.

You see, the 1998 novel tells a story that focuses more on obsession and all those intimidating things that go on in the mind. The synopsis may suggest of a crime thriller, but this element only forms a backdrop for a tale that is more nerve-wrecking than exciting.

Using the real happenings of the infamous Black Dahlia murder case which happened in 1940s in Los Angeles, author James Ellroy spins his story around two boxer-turned-crime-fighters Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, whose passion for the same woman and solving the crime will affect their personal lives in ways they have never imagined.

Told by Bleichert, the 324-page story does not make you empathize with any of the characters. Instead, you’d be intrigued by how the human mind can be so affected by obsession and passion. And the consequences that result from that will make you rethink how you have lived your life.

While the actual crime isn’t given much emphasis in the book, there will still be this part in you that want to turn page after page, wishing to find out how the deed was done, and who the real murderer is. But when the truth is revealed, there may be some disappointment in the small payoff.

The book may not be everyone’s cup of tea, because it takes some patience to settle down into Ellroy’s writing style. However, once you have given yourself enough time to familiarize yourself with the pacing of the story, you’d be drawn into the plot, yearning to go deeper into the characters’ worsening states of mind.

After finishing the book, this reviewer has an even bigger desire to see it in moving visuals, especially when he knows that he shouldn’t be expecting a crime thriller genre film.

Now, if only he could stop thinking about how the movie may have deteriorating effect on his own state of mind.


“Opponents, then partners, then friends. And with the friendship came Kay, never getting between us, but always filling in our lives outside the job with style and grace.

Lee never expressed an ounce of jealously, and Kay’s come-on subsided into a low simmer. It was there every time our shoulders brushed, every time a radio jingle or a funny billboard or a word from Lee hit us the same way our eyes met simultaneously. The quieter it got, the more available I knew Kay was – and the more I wanted her. But I let it all ride, not because it would have destroyed my partnership with Lee, but it would have upset the perfection of the three of us.”


Definitely not your typical detective story, this novel has a dark edge that may not cater to everyone. Read this only if you are interested in how the mind can be murkier and gloomier than you think.


Included is a new 2006 afterword by Ellroy which tells readers the creepy connections between the real Black Dahlia and his own mother, and how these two women have inspired him to pen this novel.

Review by John Li




. The Black Dahlia



This review is made possible with the kind sponsor of BORDERS


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