Monday, September 3, 2012

Julie's Review: The Empty Glass

Summary: In the early-morning hours of August 5, 1962, Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the home of the world's most famous movie star, now lying dead in her bedroom, naked and still clutching a telephone.  There he discovers The Book of Secrets - Marilyn Monroe's diary - revealing a doomed love affair with a man she refers to only as "The General."  In the following days, Ben unravels a wide-ranging cover-up and some heartbreaking truths about the fragile, luminous woman behind the celebrity.  Soon the sinister and surreal accounts in The Book of Secrets bleed into Ben's own life, and he finds himself, like Monroe, trapped in a deepening paranoid conspiracy.  The Empty Glass is an unforgettable combination of the riveting facts and legendary theories that have dogged Monroe, the Kennedy's, the Mafia, and even the CIA for decades.  It is an exciting debut from a remarkable new thriller writer.

Review: Frantic writing and a sense of overwhelming paranoia by both Ben Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe set the tone for this intriguing and fast-paced novel about the how Monroe died. Ben is the deputy coroner that is acting more like a detective as he begins to dig a little too deep and gets into something that is way over his head. Ben feels that Marilyn's little red diary is the key to unlocking her death. He took it from the crime scene and now seems to be fighting for his sanity and maybe his life.

Strange things starts to happen to Ben as he's taken possession of the diary. He's told to go on vacation by his boss, his wife meets a mystery man that offers to help her. My thought was during this book, was Ben set up from the beginning to be a fall guy in some manner? Did this all really happen to him? Was the autopsy and the testing compromised? If so, who is behind it? Is it the government, the mafia, the Kennedy's themselves?

Ben was an erratic character, which was pretty much the point to keep you guessing throughout the book. The book jumps around in time. It took me about 50 pages to get used to the way the author decided to narrate the story. Since Ben was erratic, I didn't necessarily trust him as the narrator. Again, I think this lends itself well to how the story unfolds.

Through the diary we get a glimpse into how paranoid and scared Monroe was in the last days and hours of her life. How many people were involved in the plot to bring her down? What was sad to me was that people who she trusted ended up truly betrayed her. There was no one she could really trust and yet she trusted almost everyone. 

J.I. Baker does a great job of making you wonder until the end if Ben is sane or not. While The Empty Glass may not have been my favorite read, I did find it a throwback to noir movies and the time period surrounding Monroe's death. The truth is that because of who she was, the conspiracy theories will always surround the circumstances surrounding her death. Mr. Baker does a great job feeding into those theories. If conspiracy theories fascinate you then you should definitely pick up The Empty Glass. I will keep an eye out for another book for J.I. Baker to see if he tackles another long-standing conspiracy.

On the other hand, if you are more like me and more intrigued by Marilyn Monroe's life and what made her tick than the conspiracy theories behind her death, I highly recommend The Immortals by Michael Korda. I read it in the mid-90s and it is still one of my favorite books.

Final Take:  3.25/5



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