On January 15, 1947, a woman was walking with her daughter in a Los Angeles neighborhood. She passed what looked to be a discarded manikin. It turned out to be the body of Elizabeth Short: posed, drained of blood, meticulously scrubbed, and cut in two. From this point, Geary reconstitutes and reveals for us the life of this 22-year-old woman who had become known as "Black Dahlia" because of her striking appearance. How could her life have ended in such a ghastly fashion? Was it a jealous boyfriend, a rejected suitor, or one of LA's notorious mafia connections whom she had apparently been dabbling with? The case gets more complex when, days later, a local newspaper receives a cut-out letter from an anonymous "Black Dahlia Avenger" admitting to the crime.
Geary's made a career from his series of true crime graphic novels, all well-researched and sober, yet also capturing something of the eerie spark that attracts people to murder lore. Now he tackles a legendary unsolved case that hints at the underbelly of Hollywood, a topic he's touched on before. Geary uses Elizabeth Short's murder to exercise his major strength, weaving a complex narrative through the events of the era to create a whole picture of the world where the crime occurred. Short's story is chronicled as a near-fable about the desperate grasp for the American dream of fame and fortune, and the way this dream can be overwhelmed by the tumult of other concerns that rampage through life. As usual, his black-and-white line art gives the stories a slightly retro, though never nostalgic, feel, with a tinge of weirdness to the chronicle of transgressions that reveal higher truths in their gruesomeness.