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Book Review: The Red Dahlia by Lynda La Plante

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The Black Dahlia case has always fascinated, and at the same time, disgusted, me. It is one of the most gruesome murders in history, and the fact that it was never solved makes it all the more horrifying. It is also probably one of the main reason why people are still so fascinated with the notorious 1947 case after so many years have gone by.

Lynda La Plante has taken her fascination to another level in her book The Red Dahlia. While it isn't directly about The Black Dahlia case itself, the book uses the 1947 mutilation murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles as a basis for a copy-cat homicide by someone trying to emulate The Black Dahlia killer.

Keep in mind that The Red Dahlia isn't about The Black Dahlia case, but a work of fiction about a sick and disgusting killer who killed his victims and taunted the police in almost exactly the same fashion as The Black Dahlia killer did. Consequently, there is a lot of interesting and terrifying details about The Black Dahlia case, but after that is where the similarity ends.

Much of the first half of the book describes the murders and the similarities between the two cases, and how the murderer was trying to copy The Black Dahlia killer. Fortunately, unlike The Black Dahlia case, Detectives Anna Travis and James Langton manage to find the killer of The Red Dahlia. The second half of the book focuses on finding evidence and implicating the killer.

What I liked most about La Plante's The Red Dahlia is the factual, no-nonsense presentation of the story. La Plante writes in a very straightforward manner without adding unnecessary frills or details, even with the personal and romantic scenes, and it makes The Red Dahlia read like a very professional account of an actual case. The personal and romantic scenes only serve to make us care about the protagonists, and they add to rather than take away, from the reading experience.

All in all, The Red Dahlia is an extremely thrilling read, although gory, with a lot of both fascinating and gruesome details about The Black Dahlia case, and in its own right. Parts of the book may be slow going, but I highly recommend it to readers with strong stomachs. Stay away from this book if you're the type that can't handle gore, though.

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About Betty Wong

Betty Wong grew up studying natural health and nutrition and is now a certified Master Herbalist. She believes that the health of the body, mind, and spirit are intrinsically linked and that nurturing all aspects of the self is essential to achieving true health. She is a naturally curious person who likes to ask questions and look for creative and unusual answers. She is also an avid reader and writer, and enjoys crafting in her free time.