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Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  2,111 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
In 1947, California's infamous Black Dahlia murder inspired the largest manhunt in Los Angeles history. Despite an unprecedented allocation of money and manpower, police investigators failed to identify the psychopath responsible for the sadistic murder and mutilation of beautiful twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short. Decades later, former LAPD homicide detective-turned-pri ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published April 10th 2003)
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Mar 21, 2011 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-crime
Former LAPD detective Steve Hodel is convinced that his late father, Dr. George Hodel, killed the Black Dahlia.

After reading his book, I am not.

Many strong cases are built on a preponderance of circumstantial evidence. The problem with this book is that most of the "evidence" Hodel presents isn't circumstantial. It's supposition and conjecture.

Circumstantial evidence is when an item belonging to a suspect is found at a crime scene, or an eyewitness can place a suspect in the vicinity of a crime
Steve Duffy
Aug 03, 2013 Steve Duffy rated it it was ok
Oh dear. What to say? Well, Steve Hodel is a man on a mission; this mission being, so far as can be ascertained, to link his father to every series of unsolved murders you can shake a stick at. Since Dr George Hodel was in fact a DA's office suspect in the original investigation of the Black Dahlia murder case, he's on reasonably safe ground here, in "Black Dahlia Avenger", the first of his two books. He amasses a range of more or less significant circumstantial evidence, some admittedly suggest ...more
Nov 06, 2009 Alicia rated it it was ok
Steve Hodel has entirely convinced himself of two things: his father's guilt in a number of murders, the most prominent being that of the infamous Black Dahlia; and the LAPD's complicit cover-up of him being considered as a suspect, which continues to this day, according to his book. I can appreciate the zeal with which he presents his case, both as a former investigator and as the offspring of an "evil" man, but the circularity and uncertainty of the evidence he uses to argue his point frustrat ...more
Mar 17, 2012 Licha rated it liked it
Who is not fascinated by the story of the Black Dahlia? As old as this story is, it still captures my interest. So here's this guy who worked for LAPD, who claims that his dad killed the Black Dahlia. Great hook. I will give it to the author that this was an interesting book to read. He has a lot of detail in the book that will send you on a quest to search for more answers about other people mentioned in the book. There is a lot of great pictures included in the book as well. As for how valid H ...more
Katherine Addison
Steven Hodel sets out to prove a number of things in this book:

1. His father, Dr. George Hill Hodel, was an abusive, controlling, sadistic, egotistical whack-job, with a thing for incest, pedophilia, and Asian girls, who was criminally involved in an abortion ring, every illegal depravity you can think of, and also tax evasion.

2. His father, with his friend and henchman Fred Sexton, killed Elizabeth Short.

3. There was a serial killer preying on women in Los Angeles in the 1940s.

4. This serial ki
Sep 02, 2012 Jeff rated it did not like it
As a huge true-crime fan, this book was a great disappointment to me. First, the crime-scene photos in the book are very cheaply printed and not glossy, so the quality is poor. Second, the author starts with a very contentious proposition; that photos found in his fathers album are of the Black Dahlia. From this "fact", the author constructs a "house of cards" plot, every fact dependent on the previous one. The problem is, that the initial "fact" is just speculation, and everything offered after ...more
Shy Di
Aug 25, 2010 Shy Di rated it it was amazing
this book is pretty gruesome. I read it a few years back and it was a bit of an eye opener for me, a bit of a rude awaking if you will. Corruption of the government, the circle of people who paid the the law to protect them against, rape, abortions (which weren't legal then), murders, etc...

It's interesting because this book is published as a fiction, yet this man, the aurthor goes the lengths to name his father as the murderer. Provides facts and dates of his attempt to bring Elizabeth Short's
Apr 14, 2008 Jackie rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Until this book was recommended by a friend, I purposefully avoided knowing much about this crime because I knew (a) that it would never be solved, and (b) that I would start obsessing about solving it (e.g., JonBenet Ramsey). I realized that I should have followed my gut when at 1 a.m. last night I found myself googling "Black Dahlia" and perusing the black dahlia foia documents on the Net. The book is much better than I expected -- I couldn't put it down -- but it really does raise more questi ...more
Kelsey Stewart
Jul 02, 2009 Kelsey Stewart rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 21, 2012 Niki rated it it was amazing
I've read every single book on the market about the Black Dahlia Murder to date and Steve Hodel's theory is the only theory that makes any sense. I think most people who are skeptical haven't done the amount of research that I have done and I'll admit, if you have only read one book on the subject, it's quite easy to be skeptical. But if you're really and truly interested in the Black Dahlia Murder, go out and read every other book out there about it. Then re-read Steve's book(s). For me, Steve ...more
Jan 01, 2008 Anna rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like true crime, but focus on the "crime" part
This book purports to be a solution to the notorious Black Dahlia murder you're probably familiar with. I haven't read any other books making the same claim, so I can't compare whether this case is any more solid than any of those, but some of the "evidence" the author suggests is flimsy at best. Handwriting analysis plays a large part, and when you start to throw around words like "obvious" when it comes to handwriting analysis, you're grasping at straws. The other weird part of this book in pa ...more
OK, I'm a sucker for 40's L.A. noir and this promised to dredge up facts and files of the most infamous unsolved murder case of the era.
Sure, there has been a lot of speculation throughout the years, and plenty of potential perpetrators have been fingered by serious crime writers, amateur sleuths, and more than a few crackpots.

How does this one stand out? Well, aside from the fact that Hodel is a respected former LAPD detective (sure, this could go both ways, we can imagine a former cop who come
Jul 27, 2015 Cindy rated it really liked it
After his father's death, Steve Hodel, a retired LA detective, stumbles across what may be a really nasty family secret - his father, Dr George Hodel, was in possession of what appears to be photos of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. This small discovery sets off a multi-year investigation into not only the Dahlia's murder, but also other unsolved brutal murder-rapes of single women in the same time period. He assembles an impressive amount of conjecture and circumstantial evidence, but I must ...more
It takes a lot of courage to follow the clues and admit to the world that, based upon your investigations, one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th Century was committed by your own father. It must take even more courage to admit this after having served as a police officer in the very jurisdiction where the crime took place fifty years earlier.

This is a fascinating book that takes an investigative approach to the Black Dahlia slaying. What appealed to me most was the way the author returned
Jan 26, 2012 Sherrie rated it it was amazing
This book has been on my shelf for awhile. I've always wanted to read about the Black Dahlia murder. But it always got pushed to the back of the pile. I love reading murder mysteries and this one did not disappoint me. It's also a true story which also is something I like to read about. This starts out as a way for Mr. Hodel to trace some of his family history. But soon leads him on the track for the elusive murderer of Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia. Keep in mind this murder took place Janua ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had seen this book several times at Half Price books and honestly I was too scared to even open it. I knew it was going to be a gruesome tale. My morbid curiosity got the best of me and I decided to read it. Wow! I was hooked! The author is actually the son of Hodel, who the author is claiming was actually the murderer of the Black Dahlia. He is a credible and reputable former LAPD detective. His research is backed up and he puts his case together with exhibits just like I was at a trial watch ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book about the possibility that Elizabeth Short's killer was the author's psychopathic physician father. While the pictures that led to Steve Hodel questioning his father's role in her death were ultimately proven to NOT be pictures of Beth, the author, a former LAPD homicide investigator, does a lot of deep research on his father, and on Elizabeth, and finds that his father WAS a suspect in her death. It is the most compelling, and believable of all the books I've read about Beth's murde ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Brent rated it liked it
Steve is a retired LAPD homicide detective. He sat next to me at Marylin's Roundtable West where he discussed writing about his father committing the Black Dahlia murder. Steve writes very well indeed. But the crime and related crimes were heinous--difficult to read about, and the apparent cover up by the LAPD almost beyond belief.
Jan 15, 2012 Mavis rated it did not like it
How the writer could say his father was the murderer is just baffling.
Not one shred of "evidence" points to the father in any way.
Photographs shown as proof the father knew the victim are so obviously not her.
If you are just interested in the black Dahlia story, it might be ok.
If you are looking for a factual account, don't bother with this book.
♥ Marlene♥
Aug 13, 2013 ♥ Marlene♥ marked it as couldn-t-finish  ·  review of another edition
I forgot about this book but I was alredy wondering if I had missed a book cause I was missing 2 days of reading.
Alas I remember now. I spend 2 days reading this at night but after a while I gave up. The writing is not bad but it just did not interest me as much. I decided I could just as well read online why Mister Hodel thinks his dad was the dahlia killer.
Jul 19, 2013 Stefanie rated it liked it
This book is certainly interesting, and the author presents his evidence and the context in which the infamous Black Dahlia murder occurred well. I ended the book uneasy that this was THE solution (although wouldn't it be good to have a definitive answer!).
Aug 30, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing
I've read a Black Dahlia book before but nothing compares to this. The author had me captivated from the very first page and I'm almost done. But I know when I get to the end I'll just want more. Hodel has written a follow up to BDA and I'll be reading that one too!
Dec 06, 2009 Terri rated it really liked it
A case that will always have too many unanswered questions.
Apr 26, 2016 Ciara rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 19, 2017 Matt rated it it was amazing
Super true crime along with the sequel. The story of this clique of nihilists compromising his father, John Huston and Man Ray is fascinating. Very LA Noire.
Book Review originally published here:

Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder is a difficult book to rate. In the book, retired LAPD homicide detective, now private investigator, Steve Hodel launches an investigation into the unsolved murder of the Black Dahlia. After his father passed away, Steve had the opportunity to look into one of his father’s personal photography albums and discovered a picture in there of a woman he recognizes as the Black Dahli
Aug 30, 2008 Tracy rated it really liked it
so, i picked up this book fairly closed off to the idea that mr. steve hodel here had ACTUALLY solved the black dahlia case... mostly, i was just in the mood for some true crime, and the half price bookstore had this one on display, and i've always been fascinated by this particular case.

well, by the time i finished reading the bonus features added after the first publishing, i'm about 98% on board. because a) hodel seems to know what he's doing, i mean, this was his career and all, and he seeme
Zack Olson
What I should first point out is that this book does not—as Steve Hodel claims—prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that his father, George Hill Hodel, was the Black Dahlia Killer or the Red Lipstick killer. I will say that his theories and the conjecture that he bases them upon are somewhat fascinating. Were this book a fictionalized account like Ellroy’s ‘The Black Dahlia,’ I think I may have loved it. From what evidence Hodel can present, his father certainly seems like he was capable of such ter ...more
Apr 20, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it
(Cómo me ha gustado la textura de este libro: suave, manejable, con las puntas dobladas por el uso…)

El primer capítulo de Black Dahlia Avenger es una reconstrucción del tiempo que pasó Elizabeth Short en el hotel Biltmore de Los Ángeles la tarde del 9 de enero de 1947. Según la versión oficial, nadie volvió a verla con vida. El segundo comienza seis días después, cuando el cuerpo de Elizabeth Short apareció en un solar cortado por la mitad, drenado y “colocado”. El tercero es desconcertante porq
Jul 29, 2008 Tanya rated it really liked it
Shelves: breaking-the-law
Claiming to have finally solved the U.S.’s most famous unsolved murder, retired LA homicide detective George Hodel contributes to the Black Dahlia industry with Black Dahlia Avenger. Hodel provides the reader with a true crime Hollywood noir police procedural far grimmer, visceral, and psychologically disturbing than any fiction conjured up on Patricia Cornwell’s morgue slab.

Serving for decades on the LAPD, coupled with a Hollywood pedigree, garnered Hodel access to records, photographs, and int
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