The Empty Glass by J. I. Baker
Published by: Blue Rider Press
Published on: July 19, 2012
Page Count: 336
My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration.
Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook
Ben Fitzgerald is a Deputy Coroner for Los Angeles County on the night that Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home. From the moment Ben entered her bedroom and saw her nude body laying face down in soldier’s position, he noticed cracks in the official story that the star had committed suicide. He was also surprised to find another coroner on scene, a woman he knew did not work with him. It was because of her he became aware of Marilyn’s “Book of Secrets,” a diary that seemed to point toward murder instead of suicide. Every avenue of investigation smacked of cover up and Ben simply could not abide what was happening. Even if it cost him his son, he would discover the truth about Marilyn Monroe’s death.
I was excited to receive a copy of the Blue Rider Press catalog for this fall and The Empty Glass stood out to me. Conspiracies and paranoia capture my attention and J. I. Baker certainly delivered. From the very beginning I was aware of a haze that covered everything that was happening. Ben didn’t seem fully coherent and, as the novel progressed, the reasons for this became clearer. Not only did Marilyn’s diary have the tinge of mental imbalance, it was full of paranoia. Ben’s story and the diary had me hearing noises I wouldn’t otherwise notice and watching my back. I had a keen sense of what it must have felt like to be inside Marilyn’s house before she died and in Ben’s head afterward.
Ben is a coroner, not a detective. He makes less than stellar choices when trusting people along the way. I couldn’t help but be anxious when Ben’s son was involved. Although there seemed to be danger around every corner, there was some touches of lightness that I appreciated. Ben was constantly trying to quit smoking. Throughout the book, he’d pull out a cigarette when things started to get crazy and declare tomorrow as “Day One.” As someone who has her own unhealthful ways of dealing with stress, I came to anticipate those moments and smile each and every time.
The Empty Glass is a fascinating look at the inner life of a person fighting for justice in a corrupt and dangerous world. Because paranoia was all over this novel, many things are not certain, or at least weren’t certain to me. It may not be for everyone, enjoyed this sense of imbalance. The stories are not related, but I thought a lot about the movie Memento while reading this book. They both gave me similar feelings. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Marilyn Monroe and the conspiracy theories surrounding her death. You will be intrigued and will not be able to stop turning the pages until the very end.