Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story by Steve Hodel

The salacious, unsolved 1947 murder of a beautiful but shadowy young woman in Los Angeles is revisited by a LAPD veteran with a personal connection.

Book cover: Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story by Steve Hodel
Book cover: Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story by Steve Hodel

The brutal murder in Los Angeles in 1947 of Elizabeth Short (AKA “the black dahlia”) remains an unsolved crime.

There are many unusual and grisly details associated with this homicide: where the body was found, how it was mutilated, the shadowy identity of the victim, the similarity of this crime to other unsolved murders of women around the same time in LA, and the loss (or destruction) of critical evidence at some point by LA Police Department staff.

Elizabeth Short, AKA The Black Dahlia
Elizabeth Short, AKA The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia case has provoked much speculation over the decades about who was the perpetrator and what was the motive. Enter the author, Steve Hodel, a highly decorated officer and successful criminal investigator who retired after many years of service with the LAPD.

In this book, Hodel re-opens all of the documents and findings associated with the murder. He retraces what happened and convincingly makes the case that this crime (and others suggested above) were perpetrated by a successful physician and businessman he knew very well – his own father, Dr. George Hodel. [⇒ Excerpt]

Personal connection: This will sound like one of those “six degrees of separation” exercises, but there was a film noir made of this story (although the movie pre-dates this book and was based on the work of another writer). The film starred Twin Cities native Josh Hartnett. Josh, in turn, before moving to Los Angeles, dated (for several years) a woman who occasionally babysat our son.

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