Study Guide

Brian Evenson

1.    Discuss how the careful disjointing of the corpse (pp 67-68) serves to symbolize the formal arrangement of the story.

2.    What is the larger thematic significance of the fastidious bleeding and cleaning of the corpse?

3.    Why is Weiss sure that the hair of the corpse has been washed and shampooed after the death rather than before? Why is this important to the story?

4.    Consider the author’s association of color imagery with character names: Black Dahlia, Red Manley, Henry Yealer (i.e. Yellow). What color is associated with Weiss? What color, by implication, is associated with the never-identified killer?

5.    Why does the killer send the victim’s belongings to Weiss? In your own words characterize Weiss’s reaction. Why does the Commissioner label Weiss’ reaction “unsettling”?

6.    Who is Yealer? Why is Weiss the only one who ever sees him?

7.    Consider the misspellings and grammatical errors in the killer’s notes to Weiss: “here is the belongs” instead of “here are the belongings”, “had my fun at police” instead of “had my fun with police”, “have change my mine” instead of “have changed my mind.” Why is Weiss unable to accept these deformations at face value? What are we to make of Weiss’ own language deformations?

8.   Why does Weiss refuse to undergo the polygraph examination? Why if, as the Commissioner claims, he is never a suspect, is he asked to take the polygraph? What questions do you think the examiner would be told to ask?

9.    Why, midway through the narrative (page 89), does Weiss attempt to kill himself? Are we to believe Weiss’s statement to Yealer?

10.    Why does the Commissioner seem so certain the six later murders are not the work of the same killer? Why is Weiss so certain they are? Who is correct? Support your claim with textual evidence.

11.    Why does Weiss have such ambivalent feelings about the murders? Why does he continue his search for the killer once the investigation has been closed?

12.    Who breaks Weiss’s fingers? What technique does the author use to heighten the tension of the scene?

13.    Is there any possibility that the killer will ever be discovered? Is there any possibility that Weiss’s own killer will ever be found?