Title: The Empty Glass
Author: J.I. Baker
Release Date: July 19, 2012
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
August 5, 1962: Ben Fitzgerald, the deputy coroner in LA, is called to the house of renowned actress Marilyn Monroe. She’s dead, and though it initially looks like a suicide, Ben begins to believe differently. He discovers her diary and realizes that Marilyn’s death – and her life – were much more complicated than they seemed. As Ben continues to ask questions, he finds that someone is pulling strings to ensure he never finds out the truth, and is ruining his life in the process.
The mystery behind Marilyn’s Monroe’s death is one that has haunted America for the last forty years. It’s easy to accept that Monroe committed suicide or accidentally overdosed on pills – her behavior and habits make her death almost unsurprising. Yet there are just enough strange details, just enough coincidences and random occurrences, that it could have been something more. Whether you believe Monroe’s death was an accident or you subscribe to conspiracy theories (or don’t really care, but just want a good mystery), you’ll find something to love in The Empty Glass.
Baker writes the atmosphere of The Empty Glass expertly. It has the feeling of an old movie or book, an old noir sensation. It sets the tone and establishes the time period incredibly well. It’s a gritty novel, to be sure. There’s a sense of paranoia that pervades the book and will leave the reader looking over their shoulder. Is someone really after Ben, or is it all in his head? Baker immerses the reader in the novel wonderfully.
Ben is a well-developed and complicated character. He isn’t the easiest person to like in The Empty Glass; it’s his love for his son that grounds him and makes the reader feel for him. As he navigates through the complicated web of lies surrounding Marilyn’s murder/suicide/accidental death, he refuses to back off, even when it’s clear he might lose everything. While his determination is admirable, it’s almost painful to bear witness to the destruction of his life. What’s really remarkable about Ben, and about Baker’s writing, though, is how realistic the conspiracy theories seem. In Ben’s world, they seem completely plausible, and they’ll leave the reader wondering long after the last pages are turned.
While The Empty Glass isn’t perfect – it jumps through time quite a bit, and can leave the reader feeling out of sorts and disjointed – it’s an entertaining and thoughtful mystery about the death of an iconic figure in American cinema history. Baker does an excellent job making Monroe’s death relevant, and the unfolding of the story is gripping. If you’re interested in noir-style novels or in Marilyn Monroe, this is an absolute must-read. Even if you’re a casual mystery reader, you should consider The Empty Glass.