The Red Dahlia is second in a series to feature DI Anna Travis, behind Above Suspicion, which I own but haven't yet read, although I don't think I missed anything. This was an outstanding mystery novel...perfect pace, building suspense throughout, characters that seemed real, and a story that kept me reading until I finished the book.
While out delivering the last of his newspapers, a young boy makes a gruesome discovery. The police arrive and discover the body of a young woman, severed in half, bloodless, and with grotesque cuts on either side of her mouth. One of the local newspapers gets an anonymous letter that relates the case to the old unsolved case of the Black Dahlia in Los Angeles, and Anna Travis and her team realize that they have their work cut out for them. Anna's gov, Morgan, is hospitalized, and DCI James Langton, with whom Anna had worked before and with whom she had some history, takes the lead in investigating the case. A profiler brought in to help realizes that the killer is going to strike again if the police do not find him, but the police have their hands full just trying to find out about the victim.
The novel is absolutely a mystery lover's novel. The first half of the book involves the team getting up to speed with the Black Dahlia case and trying to find out as much as they can about the victim, while the second half is all about locating the killer after an anonymous caller reluctantly leaves information about the murder. The mystery is very tightly plotted and the writing is excellent. LaPlante's characterizations are very well drawn, never being dragged down to the level of cardboard cutouts, the action never stops and the payoff is worth the 400+ pages of reading. I can most highly recommend this book -- it is probably one of my favorite mystery reads in a while.
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