The Red Dahlia – Lynda La Plante – Murder Mystery – a Book Review

The Red Dahlia by Linda La Plante is the very first book that I have read by this author. If you intend to read this murder / mystery thriller yourself and are worried that I am about to spoil everything by revealing the plot – don't worry. I won't.

In so far as plotting and characterization I thought it was very good. The book features a central character, namely, Detective Inspector Anna Travis. So, if you like female sleuths then you will probably like this book.

I was a bit annoyed with the constant use of the word "tetchy." It's a cumbersome word, in my opinion. Anyway, it irritated me. Maybe it won't annoy you. I was also a little jaded with the constant references to Travis's "feelings" and bedroom desires for her boss, the heavy drinking Detective Chief Inspector James Langton. This is despite the fact that early on in the story Travis beds some bit part character of dubious integrity. So, you get the impression that Miss Travis is a rather sexually promiscuous young lady. Pushing past that …

We have several other characters in the police station who play small parts and several "baddies," one of whom is Justine Wickenham, – a particularly foul-mouthed individual who liberally sprays all and sundry with every four letter word that you can possibly imagine. Not a nice person.

The story is set in and around London. It centers around a copy cat serial murderer who seems to be obsessed with another serial murderer in the USA who managed to get away with his crimes some forty years previous. He was dubbed the Black Dahlia. Our murderer is dubbed the Red Dahlia. I won't bother explaining why. That bit is all rather ho-hum and somewhat unnecessary, boring and unbelievable.

The basis of the story is the torture, murder and bizarre dismemberment of several young women. It's pretty gory and gruesome stuff. And it's scary to think that there are people in this world who really do this type of thing. There are references in the story to the infamous Fred West and his house of horrors.

Even though there are liberal references to DNA and voice recognition technology throughout the story there are other parts that seem to ignore other available technology, specifically x-ray and resonation equipment that is able to discover hidden rooms and crypts. Nevertheless, the absence of such gadgets definitely makes the book more readable.

Overall, I enjoyed the book even with its flaws and excesses. My score? I was going to give it a 6.5 but thought it deserved a bit more for the continuous tension that the story created, so – 7, just.