Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker

As far as conspiracy theories go the one described in The Empty Glass seems quite valid.

It’s not that the author offers -fact wise- something new when it comes to the death of Marilyn Monroe; it’s that he takes that incident and turns it into an exciting novel, rich in twists and turns, that keeps the reader guessing from first page to last.

Did Marilyn kill herself or did someone have her killed in a way that looked like suicide? The author and his hero, Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald, have no doubt whatsoever that her death was in no way an accident. And there are a lot of facts that support their theory, facts that are buried or distorted by the police and the feds.

If I had to describe this book with just a few words I would say that this is the story of a man with an obsession. And then a man with a mission. And then a man on the run.

Ben Fitzgerald is one of the first people to arrive at the scene, after the police has been belatedly called in and he’s really not happy with what he sees: sloppy police work, too many people contaminating the scene and the placement of the body in such a way that suggests that it’s been moved. To make things even worse he spots a reporter inside the house as well.

He does find though a thing that he likes: Marilyn’s diary. He takes a brief look at it, before he goes away, and not long after he returns to retrieve it, as he believes that within its pages lie the secrets behind the star’s death.

As time goes by, things start to become more hazy than clear. As it seems the authorities are determined to rule Marilyn’s demise a suicide, even if they have to plant evidence to do so, and Ben feels at a loss.

Why? He asks himself. Why is everyone in such a hurry to close the case? But that’s not the strangest thing that happens: all of a sudden, one after the other, all the people who were involved in the investigation, start leaving on holiday, and people who in the recent past were eager to talk about the incident, now keep their mouths shut.

In the end it’s just Ben who’s left behind to investigate at his own time and expense the case, along with the journalist he met at the scene of the crime. And the more his higher-ups are trying to bury it, the more he becomes obsessed with it.

Thus he starts moving from one place to the next asking questions, he reads the diary again and again, he replays in his head like a movie all the events and keeps wondering what the hell is going on?

Everybody seems to lie and everybody seems to have an agenda. It’s obvious that same very powerful people are pulling the strings behind the scenes, but who and why? Could someone really benefit from the death of the star? Does the mob have something to do with it? But, if it did, why would the government want to protect them?

His investigation, his obsession, will lead to his fall, and this is no spoiler since we know that from the very beginning. What we don’t know are the facts that will pave the way for this fall and that’s exactly where the author has put the most emphasis.

This is one of those novels that can be read in a single sitting and which can offer the reader a few hours of pure (thoughtful) entertainment. I’d say that if Baker is a gambling man and he’s placed a bet with himself that he can make his story work, he has won that bet.

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