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An unnecessary, poorly strcutured addition to the series
on July 18, 2013
First things first: I believe that the author's father, Dr. George Hodel, was the "Black Dahlia Avenger", aka the murderer of Elizabeth Short. The original Black Dahlia Avenger was first published in 2003 and has been updated a couple of times since -- first for the 2006 mass-market paperback edition and, it seems, the e-book available on the Kindle Store is updated even further. In reality, the Kindle version of the first book in this series is all you need. It unveils the facts as Steve Hodel discovered them. It's a compelling read, a real page-turner, and is convincing.
The story told in the original Black Dahlia Avenger is so convincing in fact that, at the time of the original 2003 publication, the theory that Dr. George Hodel was the killer was endorsed by both the Los Angeles district attorney at the time, AND James Ellroy (as strong an authority on LA crime as you'll ever find). Being a long-time enthusiast of Los Angeles, unsolved crime, and the Black Dahlia case in particular, I loved that book and agreed with the DA and Ellroy. Unfortunately, Steve Hodel couldn't stop there, and had to write a couple of more books that strain his credibility.
Despite this book being called Black Dahlia Avenger II, it is actually the third book in the series. The second book was called Most Evil, and finds Steve Hodel stretching his original, credible theory to new realms. Now we are supposed to believe his dad was not only the Black Dahlia Avenger, but the perpetrator of all the other so-called "Lone Woman" murders in 1940s LA, and the Jigsaw Murderer, and the Zodiac Killer. Unfortunately, Hodel comes up with more conjecture than facts in Most Evil, and Ellroy now won't comment on Hodel's theory. He hasn't rejected the Hodel theory outright, but it seems clear that Ellroy wants to put some distance between himself and Steve Hodel. I do too. I still believe George Hodel killed Elizabeth Short, but the rest is just a little too much to swallow.
While the original Black Dahlia Avenger was a taut, compelling read, this third book in the series is all over the place. I suppose its purpose is to update us all on new things he's learned since then. The best stuff comes early in the book, where he finds more people who lived in 1940s LA who can corroborate the findings of the first book. He has found more people who lived in LA at the time who knew George Hodel was the Black Dahlia killer, but kept it secret for various reasons. But from there, the book jumps around all over the place, a mish-mash of hard facts, long-winded musings, and repetitive comparisons between the "handiwork" of the serial killings he blames on his father and the Surrealist artists that George Hodel was friends with (Man Ray, Salvador Dali, et. al).
It's a big, unstructured mess. Clearly, Steve Hodel had a good editor for the first book, which was published by a major US book publisher. Apparently his latest book is more of a DIY effort, and his writing suffers without a quality editor. There's also all kinds of annoying grammatical errors, and just plain bizarre stylistic choices, like putting (almost literally) half the book in italics, apparently for emphasis. As I said, it's quite a mess.
If you haven't read any of Hodel's books and are interested in his Black Dahlia story, start at the beginning and get the latest e-book edition of the first Black Dahlia Avenger. As mentioned above, the e-book has been updated to include most of the important Dahlia-related information that Hodel has discovered since 2003. Most Evil can be read and enjoyed if you're willing to suspend your disbelief for a while. But Black Dahlia Avenger II is recommended only for the hardcore who can't get enough of Hodel's musings and theories about his dad. It's a poorly structured book, chock full of crimes against the English language, but could be enjoyed for those willing and able to overlook such problems.