This is not the work of a healthy mind. That doesn't mean that it's not brilliant, but be aware and be careful before you embark. You will probably have to finish what you start, and it is ultimately un-pretty. It's not too far a stretch to guess that Ellroy's own obsession with his mother's murder is playing out here, and the torment is ugly, graphic and real. Yet, like all truly talented and disciplined artists, Ellroy is able to make of his ghastly obsession an artistic statement about a society, a place, a time. His ULTIMATE 'solution' to the crime is not completely believable, because what happened to Betty Short, the 'Black Dahlia' is clearly the product of a private, unconscious descent into a particularly vile form of madness that he unconvincingly puts off on a character who can't really support the behavoir. But the grotesque characters met on the way down ARE real, and their lust for cruelty, death and dead things convincingly connects to ancient dramas of torture, and the 20th Century horror of the World War that ushered in a Century of atrocities founding a mountain of crazy profiteering on a grand scale. One is enormously grateful for the presence of a single character, Russ Millard (known aptly as "the Padre") who serves as a reminder that decency in some form does carry on. Otherwise, the police, the builders of the Hollywood hills, the film industry, and all powers north and south of the border seem devoted to a particularly foul living out of viler imaginings than most of us, fortunately, entertain in even our worst nightmares. To be honest, I finished this novel inclined simply to pray for Ellroy, and other direct and indirect victims of sexual violence, and that we and all the other Betty Shorts of the world should be spared.