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ANGEL IN BLACK


by Max Allan Collins

Signet Paperback, 2002, 321pages, $6.99.
ISBN: 0451205170

Reviewed by Rick McMahan

Max Allan Collins is a prolific writer, penning many movie-tie-in books as well as graphic novels and screenplays. However, in my humble opinion, Collins' greatest creation is the Nathan Heller historical mysteries. Nathan Heller is former Chicago cop and the president and first operative of A-1 Investigations. Collins liberally weaves historical facts and personalities in Heller's tales, with Nate Heller meeting many great and nefarious people in history as well as getting the real scoop on what happened with some of America's controversial cases. Collins does extensive research on the real cases and people he portrays, and his research contributes to the flair and true to life descriptions of the era he's writing about.

ANGEL IN BLACK chronicles Heller's involvement in Hollywood's Black Dahlia murder. Heller is in Los Angeles on his honeymoon and opening his west coast branch of A-1 Investigations when a voice from his past comes into his life--Elizabeth Short and Heller dated briefly when she was in Chicago before landing in LA, and one evening Heller gets a call from the young woman asking for money. Then as history would tell, a short time later, Short's dismembered body is found in a vacant lot. Afraid that if his involvement with Short comes to light that he'll become a prime suspect, Heller becomes involved in the search to find the person who butchered this mysterious young girl. In his trek, Nate crosses paths with the likes of Orson Welles and west-coast mobster Mickey Cohen. Though the history books say that the Short murder went unsolved, Nathan Heller knows better.

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