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Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,407 ratings  ·  308 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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 ·  3,407 ratings  ·  308 reviews

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Mar 21, 2011 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
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
Steve Duffy
Aug 03, 2013 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
Sep 21, 2012 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
Kerry Casey
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well, well, well. I've got to say, I tend to agree that the BD case is probably solved! Everything displayed here makes a lot of sense. What a warped and twisted world and power hungry, off, man George Hodel was. Quite disgusting, though he was certainly a depravity of his era.
I dont believe the woman in the photo to be Elizabeth, but none the less, it lead the author (whose father WAS George Hodel) on the right path to really investigating this notorious crime.

I found some of the 'links' a lit
Mar 17, 2012 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
Nov 06, 2009 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
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
OOF. This starts out compelling -- Hodel's investigation into his father's past, and gradual (or was it?) realization that the man was an absolute monster, and maybe famous murderer, is well done, and (for the most part) convincingly presented. But the longer this book goes on -- and it goes on way, way, way too long -- the further Hodel goes off the rails. Tiny scraps of possible evidence are produced as DEFINITIVE PROOF!!!! The more assured Hodel becomes of his case -- that his father, Dr. Geo ...more
D.J. Adamson
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Below is the shocking revelation Steve Hodel’s sister stated in court. More shocking still, retired LAPD, Steve Hodel investigates the Black Dahlia cold case, clue by clue, analysis by analysis, stringing together evidence how the murder links to his family history. The evidence is circumstantial, since most involved are dead, but Hodel hits the mark at many levels.
A fascinating case study. A fascinating read.
Thorough investigative work, Hodel is relentless in his pursuit for the truth.
Apr 14, 2008 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
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
A case that will always have too many unanswered questions.
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
Story - 5/5
Narration - 5/5

Interesting in many ways, but this author just loves to throw his dad under the bus... for EVERYTHING!
In his next book, he blames the Zodiac killings on guess who?

Still, this had a lot of interesting stuff about L.A.
Like many others I’ve had a lifelong interest in the unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (colloquially known as the Black Dahlia.) I don’t think it’s because I’m interested in the overplayed “glitz and glamour of LA contrasting with the brutality and base perversion of the murder” angle or an Ellroy-esque obsession with connecting with Short’s true nature and humanity. I think it really has to do with the fact that the Dahlia case is really a harsh look at how fucked up humanity can get. Unf ...more
Sep 02, 2012 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
Aug 25, 2010 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
Aug 30, 2012 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! ...more
Thor Garcia
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hollywood "acting hopeful" Elizabeth Short's body was cut in half and left in a vacant lot in what became famous as the Black Dahlia murder (still officially unsolved). In a style that was highly popular but is no longer all the rage among killers, Short's murderer taunted police with notes assembled from letters and words cut from newspapers and magazines. This was in the astounding year of 1947, when the Cold War formally started, the CIA and IMF were established, and whatever happened at Rosw ...more
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To start, this is my first 5 start of the year and arguably the best true crime I’ve ever read. I watched The Most Dangerous Animal of All on Hulu earlier this year causing me to go into this skeptically. The case is “solved” but that’s not why you’re reading it right? You’re here to give the final ok yourself. The first thing Hodel does is provide you will a little background on his career and intent. I’ve seen that before. He veers off into a weird few chapters about his dad’s wunderkind “upbr ...more
Bill reilly
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Steve Hodel was a member of the LAPD for twenty-three years, most of them as a murder detective. His father was a brilliant doctor who fathered ten children with four women; a veritable medical Mick Jagger. Steve’s police instincts were awakened by a photo album of George’s containing two black and white shots of a woman resembling the murdered Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dahlia. The victim was cut in half and left in an L.A. park in January of 1947. Thus begins this remarkable and ...more
Kelsey Stewart
Jul 02, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Terry Cornell
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
I was reminded that I had this book after seeing commercials for the TNT series 'I am the Night'. The main character of the series is based on the niece of the author of this book. Steve Hodel, a former LAPD detective lays out a convincing case that his father was not only the Black Dahlia killer, but also was responsible for the deaths of at least one other woman and possibly more. I would give the book five stars, but I think it could have been organized a little better. Also the size and qual ...more
Liesel Hill
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read if you’re into true crime and want to know what really happened to the Black Dalia. Warning: very adult. Lots of details of sexual depravity and serial killings. Also lots of info in general. It’s a long book and a lot to process. I couldn’t put it down though. Utterly fascinating real-life investigation and solving of the most notorious unsolved murder in American history.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you find solving crimes interesting this book is for you. I learned so much from reading this. Not only did I learn who killed Ms Short but I also learned that anyone you know or comes across could be a serial killer and you would have no idea; a scary thought.
Lord Beardsley
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2019
What Steve Hodel has managed to achieve with his dogged research and conviction to telling the truth about his dirtbag father's sordid doings is nothing short of amazing. By writing this book, he gave his father's victims back their voices and their truths. I'm floored. ...more
Apr 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 19, 2021 rated it did not like it
Nonsense, utter nonsense!
There is not one iota of proof that the grainy photographs used by the author are of Beth Short.

So..his father was the murderer? Sound bizarre since someone else declared years before he wrote this that HER father was the murderer and she had grainy photos also.

The photograph that he says are of Beth Short, don’t even resemble her.

Would be an 4 star, interesting book if he had said it was fiction, ‘cause it sure ain’t fact!
Stephanie Lackey
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
Kind of a hot mess and sooooo long. I do recommend the Root of Evil podcast though.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This could have been a little more clearly edited. Also, from time to time I read a nonfiction book and I'm right there, believing everything, and then some little thing happens that casts doubt on everything I've read.

In the case of this book, it was the author's insistence that the use of two hyphens together--like this--indicated that the writer of one note was the same as the writer of another note.

Nope. This is how it's done by a lot of people. In the specific cases, the one note, written b
Jess Kallberg
If you so much as whisper Black Dahlia, people will be interested. Steve Hodel knew as much and uses his chief proposition — that his father killed Elizabeth Short — to make a series of unsubstantiated and increasingly outlandish claims.

Here’s the thing: if Hodel stuck to the facts, he would make a solid case for his father George’s guilt, both in the Black Dahlia slaying, Tamar’s abuse, and maybe even the Red Lipstick murder. Taken apart from the rest of the book, these sections are relatively
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Goodreads Librari...: Description change 3 17 Mar 18, 2017 07:45PM  

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