Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Red Dahlia by Lynda La Plante

DI Anna Travis, under James Langton, is investigating the rather grisly murder of a woman who was found severed in two. Both Langton and Travis are desperate to prove themselves and work flat out to solve the case as soon as possible. The killer, it seems, is desperate for attention and begins to send the police anonymous letters I through the media when the attention the story receives flags. It doesn’t take long before they realize that they are dealing with a copy cat killer. The whole case is following the scenario and time line of The Black Dahlia murder in the 1940s. Since The Black Dahlia killer was never caught and it’s clean that The Red Dahlia is just as, or even more sadistic than the original, the pressure to stop the killer before more fall victim to him reaches a fevered state, especially when the trail goes cold.

Thanks again to Audible for this one. It’s another of those that comes from their sales, although it would have been worth the original price. La Plante finds just the right balance between following a brutal, gruesome killer and character interaction. The one offsets the other quite well as she dwells on neither portion for too long. More time spent focusing on the appalling details would have put some readers off, as would too much focus on the feelings and private lives of the characters.

La Plante lets the reader see into the minds and lives of her characters, generating a sympathy with them otherwise not possible and giving them a three dimensional feel. They aren’t just coppers, but humans with their own lives, problems and motives. Fortunately, La Plante does keep the murder investigation and the characters lives separate, unlike, for instance, Cornwell’s Scarpetta who invariably ends up becoming the victim with the criminal taking her efforts to bring him to justice personally. There is a clear definition of work and private life in La Plant’s book which keeps it from becoming predictable.

I can’t say much more without giving the plot away, but it’s a good read for anyone who likes crime/mystery novels. Yes, there are a few gory details about the murders, but these aren’t dwelt upon. I give this one 4.5 out of 5. I’ll definitely be reading more of La Plante’s work.

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