Nikita T. Mitchell's Reviews > The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
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it was ok

I'm not big on this whole "going green" trend, but today I thought about one thing all book lovers can do to contribute to society: use your library card more often.

You probably thought I had something clever to say. Sorry to disappoint but let me explain.

My Analysis of The Black Dahlia:
-324 pages in the book
-67 pages until the plot begins to unfold
-300 pages before the book becomes unputdownable, as I like to call it

What does that leave us with?
...approximately 67 pages of wasted paper and 233 pages worth only borrowing from the library
... only 7.4% (24/324) of the book worth purchasing

Granted, I only paid about $5 for the book (thanks to half.com) technically I should've only spent like 40 cents. Plus think about how many trees that could've been saved if James Ellroy, the author, had simply gotten to the point.

But who's counting...?

The core of the plot is based on a 1940's Los Angeles murder mystery. The body of a young woman was found in a vacant lot mutilated, cut in half, and disemboweled. Two detectives, ex-boxers, take on the case and become overly obsessed with this young woman's life - and death - to the point where it literally destroys their own lives.

What I really struggled with while reading this book was the inclusion of random storylines as well as the excessive - and mostly pointless - details that made the book way longer than it needed to be. For instance, the first 67 pages of the novel are spent developing the relationship between the two detectives and describing their boxing past. The author also over-used police jargon which only made it harder for me to connect with the characters. The book's only saving grace was the last 30(ish) pages where the twisted plot came into focus.

In conclusion...
What I liked: the twisted mystery plot
What I disliked: Ellroy's inability to focus on what was important to me, the reader

While this book may be worth reading for you mystery/suspense lovers out there, I would strongly suggest that you save our trees and borrow The Black Dahlia from your local library. Don't let another wasted page get printed.

(Posted on Uptown Literatti: http://uptownliteratti.blogspot.com/2...)
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Reading Progress

May 3, 2007 – Shelved
Started Reading
July 11, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Those unputdownable wouldn't be unputdownable without the pages preceding it. Your logic is flawed.


message 2: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany you could also purchase an e-reader. Absolutely no trees destroyed for any of your books, and you can still use your library card to check out many e-books. For FREE!


Nikita T. Mitchell So true! eReaders weren't very popular yet when I read this one, so it didn't cross my mind.


message 4: by Andreas (new)

Andreas Magro Smart, Nikita.


Zack Olson The heart of this novel is not the twisted mystery plot, as you say, it is the way that the murder affects the psychology of all the people involved. There is only so much that can be interesting about a decades old unsolved murder case. The Dahlia Further twists those who are already twisted. She sinks her hooks into anyone prone to obsession. In death, her power is greater than it was in life. That is what is truly interesting about this novel.

You also make a mistake when referring to this novel as one of suspense, or as a thriller. Though it has elements from those two genres in it, it is the quintessential Noir novel. In noir, The devil is truly in the details, Most importantly the psychology of the protagonist. This is something that was first seen in Camus ' novel 'The Stranger,' The prototypical existentialist novel. The best noir Is really existentialism, but with more murders. This novels entertainment value, of which there is much for somebody Who enjoys a psychological story, Masks greater questions about human nature and existence.

Your criticisms of the use of police jargon do not hold water either. The novel is written in first person point of view. The story is told by a police officer and thus, should include police jargon. If the novel did not include that jargon, it would negatively effect the credibility of the narrator. Anybody willing to look can find all of the terms in this novel on Urban Dictionary.


Nikita T. Mitchell Zack wrote: "The heart of this novel is not the twisted mystery plot, as you say, it is the way that the murder affects the psychology of all the people involved. There is only so much that can be interesting a..."

Quite the response, Zack. I thank you for being so thoughtful and thorough. I read the book so long ago that I don't have responses to your reply, however, it's clear you enjoyed the book far more than I. That's the beauty of art and writing: everyone is entitled to their own reactions and views.


Evilreader Well,you have to observe things from a different point of view. Sure,book is a rather bleak and remotely boring at the beginning,but did you think that it was building up for something? What I wanted to say is that you wouldn't enjoy the twist or the end if you didn't bare with the rest 300 pages of book.


Jonesmikey I thought it started out great, but towards the end I just wanted it to be over. I'd look and see there was about 40 pages left and I'd wonder what more could there be, just make it end.


message 9: by Mickaugrec (new)

Mickaugrec Thanks Zack Olson, and Nikita too. Wow, a friend recommended I read Ellroy (I'm a playwright heavily influenced dialogue-wise by Mamet's staccato, percussive, coarse sound), struck upon this one under the goodreads author column (I saw the film of 'LA Confidential' when it came out). Interested in true / existential noir, love Hammett (Chandler too) and old California. That so many people commenting not only have something thoughtful to say but actually type out the words 'Los Angeles' is a tribute by itself. I will get it from the library, not trying to shank Ellroy, just need to get off book-purchasing frenzy (makes moving cumbersome!).


Chiara I agree with you completely. This book took me forever to read. I really had to struggle to get through the first 70 pages. But once I got to the worthwhile bit I blasted through in a day.


Pravin Patil Very correctly said. Till the book became interesting, I had lost interest in it. I didn't like the book much.


message 12: by Jessica (new)

Jessica T. damn hippy using your library card!!


message 13: by Jonesmikey (last edited Jul 21, 2015 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jonesmikey After writing my previous reply to this review I have read several more Ellroy books and they all blew my mind. I finished the prequel Perfidia recently and it includes Kay, Bucky, Lee, and the brilliant forensic chemist, Hideo Ashida. I plan on rereading this book and most likely all the others from the LA Quartet and The American Underworld Trilogy. It may have been Brian Depalma's poor adaptation to cinema along with his bad casting choice of Bucky that turned me off, too.


Altrin I'm in the same situation. I want to get to the point, but Elroy not give me a chance. I'll go to page 67 and continue reading. If necessary, I will back. Thank you, great review.


message 15: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth Laborde Great review -- you pretty much sum up my take on it. While I appreciate the author's personal plight with his mother and coming to terms with his tragic past, I felt the book would be much stronger if it were tighter. Apparently, at readings, this author describes himself as being a truly great crime writer, so he may lack the humility to recognize his weaknesses.


Nakishma Hull I'm on page 120.. I'm suffering at this point. Force feeding myself this book and I just totally relate to your characterization of what I'm currently experiencing. Good to know it gets good 200 pages from where I'm currently located.


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