Black Dahlia, Red Rose

Written by Piu Eatwell

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.


Black Dahlia, Red Rose
Coronet / Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £20
Released: September 28 2017
HBK

This is a most unusual “thriller” as it is actually a very detailed journalistic investigation of one of America’s most shocking crimes; the 1947 murder and dismemberment of the young starlet Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles – most commonly referred to as the Black Dahlia Killing. It also postulates what actually might have befallen the troubled actress, and why.

So despite it being a crime that is over five decades old, it still piques the public imagination. With no one arrested for this shocking crime, the interest in the horror of what happened to this young girl who came to the West Coast to seek a life under the shadow of the Hollywood Hills has all the allure of a car crash.

Though racked on non-fiction shelves, it is written in almost a novel from/style. It is clear this narrative device is purposefully deployed; and not in a dissimilar fashion to Robert Graysmith’s literary investigation into the Zodiac Killings - that would eventually be filmed by David Fincher as Zodiac.

The level of research by novelist and TV producer Eatwell is extraordinary with its detailed notes, glossaries, index and footnotes, which may appear to run against its novelistic structure – however the detail adds to the veneer that overlays the narrative.

It is not a fast read, for the reader gets trapped in the Post-WW2 Hollywood world, with its beacon summoning misfits looking for fame and fortune and perhaps love [in the case of Ms Short].

We learn of Short’s troubles from her childhood, her siblings, controlling Mother and absent Father [who had been presumed a victim of suicide], and the plethora of men she associated with. We also learn more of the darker side of the American Dream, where it reaches its most Obsidian under the Hollywood sign. We learn of the role of the printed press [at that time] fuelling the public appetite for the sordid, the sensational and the fear that encircled the area.

Black Dahlia, Red Rose also casts a long shadow, for it remains in the mind long after the book is put down as it makes one think about our lives, and the lives of others.

With contemporary society yearning to learn more about the darkest edges of human nature [such as Netflix’s Mindhunter], the appetite for murder, serial killing [and the obscenities of mutilation and the link to a warped sexual desire ] is unrelenting .

This is a most intriguing, if somewhat unsettling narrative because we know it to be true, and not just from the imagination of a novelist.

The appeal of this book as a narrative is obvious, but at the same time, its appeal also troubling.



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