Angel In Black

Written by Max Allan Collins
Review by Steve Lewis

The most notorious unsolved murder in US history is probably that of the “Black Dahlia,” the young woman whose bisected nude body was found in a empty Los Angeles lot, January 1947. A stack of books have been written about the case, and none have come close to naming the killer.

Until now. In the guise of his alter ego, fictional private eye Nate Heller, Collins takes the facts as they are known, gives them a new twist, and lays out possibilities nobody’s suggested before.

This isn’t the first time Collins has done this — this is Heller’s 12th book — mixing Heller’s private life with America’s best-known crimes, and recreating bits of American life and folklore along the way. Orson Welles has a bit part in this one; Arthur Lake (Dagwood of the movies) is briefly a suspect. Eliot Ness flies out to California to give Heller a hand.

Collins tends to go overboard with the details of postwar California life, and it certainly takes nerve to have Heller learn that he made the dead girl pregnant during a short fling they had had together. Wow! There’s no denying it — this noirish adventure is an attention grabber.