Friday, August 27, 2010
Black Dahlia Avenger - Steve Hodel
If you are interested in U.S. murder history, chances are you've heard of the Black Dahlia. The Black Dahlia was Elizabeth Short, a pretty, young girl trying to make her way in 1940's Los Angeles. She was found brutally murdered on January 15, 1947 and it's the incredibly gruesome manner in which she was found combined with her nickname that have made her one of Los Angeles' most notorious unsolved murders. Black Dahlia Avenger covers the investigation Steve Hodel, a former LAPD officer and homicide detective supervisor with over 20 years experience, embarks on to discover that his own father, Dr. George Hodel, was responsible for Elizabeth Short's slaying and possibly even responsible for the murders of other young women in the same era.
I found Hodel's book to be a very interesting read with well-detailed and thorough research that presented quite compelling evidence that his father could in fact be Elizabeth Short's murderer. My big issue with the book was the reason Hodel decided to invesitgate the matter to begin with. His father passed away in May of 1999 and it was at that time that Hodel received a small photo album his father had kept of those nearest and dearest. While Hodel recognized many photos, there were a few of women he didn't know at all. Two pictures, in particular, stood out to him. He decided they seemed to resemble Elizabeth Short and after doing a brief internet search, concluded "No question. It was she."
It's this statement of his, right at the beginning of the book, that already led me to take the rest of his investigation with a grain of salt. I freely admit that I'm no investigator or authorian, but I saw those same pictures and I've seen many others of Elizabeth Short as well. I don't think the photos are of her at all. As I stated before, I think he makes a very compelling case, backed up with newspaper articles from the timeframe and official police and court documents where he could obtain them, not to mention expert handwriting analysis and interviews with those who knew both his father and details of the original LAPD investigation. I don't discount nor discredit his abilities as a detective. But. He spends a little too much time, for me, simply concluding things. This and this happened so it must mean this and this. His father was a well-respected doctor, a wealthy man living in a Lloyd Wright-designed home in Los Feliz, with a history of womanizing and abuse, both of women and substances. But that doesn't mean he was the ONLY one. It's LA. Even in the 1940s, LA was full of those. He unquestionably proved that his father was a despicable man, but that doesn't necessarily mean he was a murderer, let alone a serial killer.
The Black Dahlia Avenger is not the first book I've read claiming to have solved the murder and I'm sure it won't be the last, but of the few I've read, despite my remaining reservations, this has certainly provided the most conclusive proof. The truth is, the murder is most likely impossible to solve at this point. Too much time has passed, too much corruption within the LAPD of that era causing possible tampering with both evidence and the investigation as a whole, and most of those involved with the murder in any way have by now passed away.
I am curious to read his follow-up book wherein he apparently claims that not only was his father responsible for the Dahlia murder, but perhaps even more, including the Zodiac killings! (Seriously?)
Bookworm Rating: ****