The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker
Publication Date: July 19, 2012
Publisher: Blue Rider Press; Part of Penguin.
Target audience: Adult fiction
Keywords: Marilyn Monroe, mystery, family, danger, cover-ups
Format read: Borrowed from library.
Summary: Deputy coroner, Ben Fitzgerald, is brought in the night that Marilyn Monroe is discovered to have overdosed. Early on in the investigation, he is sure there is more to the story and he’s on a mission to find out… even if it means putting himself and his family in danger.
This August marked the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death at the age of 36. She’s been gone longer than she lived, and still she remains as popular as ever. She was beautiful, she was ballsy, and she knew the importance of a diamond.
But then there’s that other stuff. Her supposed affairs with John and Robert Kennedy. The drugs. The drinking. Her inability to show up to work on time. And then her shocking death. Many said she was happy when they last spoke to her. Then there’s the missing phone records. Missing medical photographs. The contradicting interviews.
All of it leading to a question that has plagued many for years: was Marilyn murdered?
Author J.I. Baker has formulated an intense look at the days following Marilyn’s death, through the eyes of deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald. Called to the death scene a few hours after her body was discovered, Ben immediately feels something is off. In hopes of finding out the truth, he swipes Marilyn’s diary from her home and teams up with Vivien Leigh lookalike/gossip host/budding journalist, Jo, who has some theories of her own.
Told in film noir style, The Empty Glass starts off a little slow and gradually builds momentum as Ben and Jo’s conquest leads them even more into a black hole of treachery and secrets. Political figures and Hollywood elite spark a dangerous chemical reaction in Marilyn’s world and as the pieces fall together, Ben and Jo find themselves in more and more danger. There are many who do not want the truth to surface and they will do whatever they must to prevent it.
As a self-admitted researcher of conspiracy theories and fan of Marilyn, I promised myself I would stay up all night until I’d gotten to the bottom of The Empty Glass. (Unintentional pun, folks.) I was truly sucked into this story -– a story of such betrayal, pain, and anxiety – and felt downright haunted by the many ghosts this story drudged up long after I finished.
None of the theories are truly groundbreaking. In fact, you could find most of them in a quick Google search but Baker has structured this on-going mystery in a fresh way, making it truly cinematic and at times sensual and painful. The voice of Marilyn through her diary is defiant and open, yet still shrouds her persona in a layer of intrigue. It’s almost like as much as we try, we can never get a handle on her. Her weaknesses are mirrored by Ben’s own demons and his inability to maintain control and stability in his life. These parallels make the story even more effective and heartbreaking.
The Empty Glass is addicting, chilling, and deliciously mysterious until the last page. And if you are anything like me, you’ll feel more than inclined to dig a little deeper and do a little research of your own…