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The Empty Glass

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,055 ratings  ·  225 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 19th 2012 by Blue Rider Press
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9th out of 31 books — 37 voters
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Community Reviews

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Book noir?

"The Empty Glass" is an interesting murder mystery told from an unusual perspective. We're kept guessing who Deputy Coroner Fitzgerald is recounting his story to. It's August 5th, 1962 and Marilyn Monroe has just been found dead in her Brentwood bungalow. Why did it take 5 hours to contact police? Who are all the people in her home when police arrive? Why does the body position look `staged'?

I love how Baker intersperses political and historical information into the story. In fact the...more
As a noir take on the death of Marilyn Monroe, the story chugs along well, a right little page-turner, in fact, keeping the reader curious as to what will happen next all the way to the end of the story.

The only comment I would make on this aspect is that the writing style interferes with the characterization. We’re distanced from our hero, and in a noir you really need to be inside your protagonist’s head, feeling with him and cheering him on (or not, whatever the case may be).

Unfortunately, t...more
A bizarre book, one of the most confusing things I've read in ages (maybe ever!). Eventually one figures out most of it - who is speaking or acting, what's going on - but the guessing isn't much fun without a framework to fit it into. The fictional protagonist is a deputy coroner in Los Angeles at the time of Marilyn Monroe's death who gets in over his head investigating the case. Some of the characters are real: Thomas Noguchi, Bobby Kennedy, Peter and Pat Lawford, Johnny Roselli. The author's...more
Glass House Reviews
It didn’t hit me until after I read The Empty Glass that it’s been fifty years since Marilyn Monroe died. This should explain why I’ve seen so many books on the actress published recently – fiction and non-fiction. I like to read novels that have roots in historical events – James Ellroy, for one, writes brilliant crime fiction set in the JFK era, and in the last few years I’ve read a number of novels that expand on the Marilyn myths. Glass, in particular, is actually set just after Marilyn’s bo...more
This novel is in the format of a noir film and told from the perspective of Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald, who quickly surmises that the facts just aren't adding up to the story being put out to the public about Marilyn Monroe's death. One of the first on the scene when the death is reported, Ben observes that there is no water in the room with which pills could have been taken and that Marilyn's body appears to have been moved. The scene had not yet been staged to reflect the public story. When...more
Loosely based on the many conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe, some of which are rather far-fetched - although serious questions remain. Disappointingly perhaps, Marilyn herself is only a minor character. And the supposed red diary, FBI tapes, and friendship with Jeanne Carmen are all based on shaky evidence. Obviously this is fiction, but if you know Marilyn's story well, this rendering leaves something to be desired. It is quite similar to Max Allan Collins' recent take...more
Hydra Star
This book is, in parts, more than a bit hard to follow. It’s written in a sort of first person noir style, with witty remarks and clever quip exchanges that, while entertaining, sometimes confused this reader. It was only after the first hundred or so pages that I was finally able to get accustomed to this style and sort out enough details concerning the main character that the story started to become enjoyable. I won’t say, however, that this book is horrible. I’m left feeling sort of middle of...more
Susan Merrell
I wonder why there hasn't been more noise about this book. It's much more than a police procedural, a literary detective novel and a really beautifully imagined book about a fictional medical examiner in the week following Marilyn Monroe's death. Baker takes some wonderful risks, writes (and sees) lyrically, and builds character with a fluid, raw skill that reminds me of Peter Hoeg's Smilla.
Mary Ronan Drew
I'm giving this book five stars despite quitting after about 100 pages. The Empty Glass by J I Baker is a "modern noir" about the death of Marilyn Monroe. The narrator is an assistant coroner in LA, a colleague of the later-famous Thomas Naguchi. He is called to the scene at Monroe's modest (by Hollywood standards) hacienda and he immediately notes many discrepancies and questionable practices (like calling the studio immediately and then waiting four hours to call the police.) Most of what we a...more
May 05, 2012 Kayleen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: arc
This novel had the sparse, stuttering pace of a Monroe-era noir film. It centers on one deputy-coroner turned gum shoe and his probing into the conspiracy surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe, as he tells it to the investigator after his own arrest. True to the conspiracy, it's hard to tell which characters are playing for the good guys and in a contest between the LAPD and the Mafia, is there a good side?

SPOILER: Near the end I was afraid he was going for a Shutter Island ending, with his d...more
Craig Pittman
A big meh. J.I. Baker's debut novel, "The Empty Glass" starts off strong but runs into continuity and character problems and runs out of steam before it reaches the end. The author sets up an interesting main character, alcoholic deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald, as his hero, and puts him smack dab into a fascinating mystery, namely: Why did Marilyn Monroe die?

Before it's done, the novel connects Monroe to the Kennedy family, the Mafia, Sinatra's Rat Pack and a goon squad from the LAPD. What the n...more
Read my full review @:

Synopsis: Deputy Coroner, Ben Fitzgerald is called to the scene of a suicide. When he gets to the scene, it is the suicide of Marilyn Monroe and things aren't lining up that it is a suicide and, although, everyone in law enforcement writes it off as suicide, he can't. On his own, he investigates her death, but are there are people out there who don't want the truth dug up and will do whatever they need to do prevent it from happening? Is Ben trying to m...more
For a debut novel, I think this one was pretty darned good. The author adds an unusual perspective to the reasons for Marilyn Monroe's death. As in real life, evidence seemed to indicate either suicide or homicide, but in my personal opinion, I believe the woman was murdered, not necessarily by the people named in this novel. The novel is written in a very short chaptered noir style, and if one had not known about this actress and her history with the Kennedys and others, I could see where some...more
Lisa B.
Well, well, well - this was pretty darn interesting. I was too young in 1962 to remember the death of Marilyn Monroe, but have certainly heard all the stories surrounding the mystery of her last few years and her supposed suicide. I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t so sure the topic would interest me, but boy, was I wrong. This book pulls the different theories surrounding Marilyn’s death together in a very readable, entertaining and fast paced mystery.

This is a debut from Mr. Baker. All I can sa...more
Merja Pohjola
Hmph. Jeanne Carmen. Yes,it is a novel, BUT by writing/reading about these conspiracy theories (at their worst, I might say, no more without revealing the end) we give credence of the rumors plus Jeanne Carmen and the like. Okay, yes, I read it too, but I think I might say I "know better" without sounding too arrogant. I hate to think people who have read nothing but Summers's bio or something come across this and it just makes it so much harder to try and explain why things couldn't go the way...more
this was such a juicy read....i love 'alternative history' fiction (when it is well done; much of it is rather schlocky, in my opinion) and have always been fascinated by the trials, tribulations and tragic and mysterious death of Marilyn see the legend extrapolated this way and bring in the possible political ramifications of her associations and how they may have contributed to her death was gripping reading...well-researched, the blurring of the lines between fact and fiction was...more
LA Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald becomes intimately involved in the case surrounding the death of starlet Marilyn Monroe in 1952. The story unfolds from a unique perspective which pits Ben at the forefront, almost to the extent of overshadowing Monroe’s suicide. The narrative is very much a retelling of Ben’s life throughout the investigation which leads to him being a suspect for many crimes including abduction, stalking and murder running parallel to Monroe’s re-enactment of her final moments...more
Brian Grover
It's a fun idea for a book - a whodunit that supposes Marilyn Monroe didn't die of an accidental overdose, she was (as has been widely speculated) murdered. Our would-be sleuths are the deputy coroner called to the scene that night, and a gossip columnist he meets there.

Baker does a fine job painting the backdrop of 1962 Hollywood; he's a talented writer. Unfortunately I don't think his potboiler ever really clicks, for a couple of reasons.

Not the least of these is that it seems silly to have a...more
Cool novel based on the mystery surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe. Lots of small errors in historical detail, but so what, it's a novel. You only notice those things if you are old enough to remember the period. Told in a way that's a bit hard to follow, but a gripping read for me. I'll look forward to future work from this first time novelist.
The story was gripping... a take on the conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death. It was a bit choppy, and jumped back and forth, but overall it was good. The bad guys were all the guys, and noone could be trusted... it was super spooky.
Brenda Linky
Geat concept for a book. Learned a lot about Monroe. The book was just unnecessarily confusing and poorly written.
Described as a blending of fact and legend, [The Empty Glass] imagines what could have really happened the night Marilyn Monroe died. The narrator, the deputy coroner, has his interest piqued when he first enters the scene of Monroe's death, and finds himself pulled into a paranoid spiral and a conspiracy far beyond anything he could have dreamed up-or did he dream it up? One of the most interesting parts of this book is the attempt to figure out just how reliable our narrator actually is, parti...more
I could not resist reading "The Empty Glass", a book that ends the speculation surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death. The story begins when Ben, the L.A. Coroner, arrives at Marilyn's home hours after she is found in her bed of an apparent overdose. Ben takes her diary from the scene and reads Marilyn's book of secrets, which reveals a wounded woman desperate for a normal relationship. Her glamorous life provided clues to what really happened that fateful night while advancing themes of abandonment...more
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic stars in American history. Numerous non-fiction books detail her life but it is the fiction that provides more fodder for the rumors about her death; namely because it can draw on the smallest of details and create a story around them. If it sounds like I’m getting ready to slam this genre, relax. I’m a fan of it, albeit not of the more trashy and explicit kind of books. The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker takes Marilyn’s last days alive and uses them as part o...more

Enjoyed the book.....the second half really gets moving! The whole story revolving around MM and her death brings up the old questions of her death....accidental OD or murder....found details of that time very much intact though one very important factor that I could not get out of my mind for the remainder of the story was on page 201 the author writes about Lana Turner, her boyfriend Johnny Stompanado, and the fact that Lana's daughter Cheryl, "eventually shot" and killed him...she didn't sho...more
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Wow, what a first book for an author! It had me on pins and needles and I wanted to put it down because I couldn't handle the suspense anymore!

The book is told from the viewpoint of Ben Fitzgerald, Deputy Coroner of Los Angeles County. Its 1962 and Marilyn Monroe has just been found in her Brentwood home. Ben is called to the scene, ostensibly to notify next of kin. He notices some things amiss and his curiosity gets the best of him. He begins to ask questio...more
Kelsey Weitzel-Leishman
I'm not a huge fan of detective or crime fiction, but I picked this one up because of it's affiliation with Marilyn Monroe (again, it's an obsession!). I've got to say, I wasn't overly impressed with the book. If this novel is indeed characterized as 'noir', it is quite possibly the strangest type of noir novel I've ever read.I really wasn't connected to the protagonist, and preferred when he was just explaining clues and mysteries he was finding out about the case rather than getting a glimpse...more
The story begins with a narrator who is talking to an unknown person, probably a psychiatrist whom he keeps addressing as "you" or "Doc," and these events appear to be occurring at some future point in time.

We then move to the events of August 5, 1962, when Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her sparsely decorated adobe home. She was lying face down, clutching a phone.

In the following pages, we discover that there are time discrepancies; there are concerns about the position of the body and the un...more
A deputy coroner suspects Marilyn Monroe's death was a murder, not suicide. Teamed up with a society reporter, he becomes the target of forces trying to protect Bobby Kennedy, President Kennedy, etc.

I liked three unexpected features to this book. The science-y/CSI-like coroner's details about how various toxins show up in the body. The gossipy stories about Kennedy, Sinatra, et al. And most of all, snippets of local history about Los Angeles.

However, over the course of the book, I became a bit i...more
Diana Leigh
THE EMPTY GLASS is an interesting fictitious account of Marilyn Monroe's final days and death, blending facts with popular (conspiracy) theories.

The protagonist of the story is Ben Fitzgerald, the fictional deputy coroner for Los Angeles County, who is called to Marilyn's home the morning after she died. His somewhat simple job of notifying next-of-kin becomes very complicated and dangerous when he finds and steals Marilyn's diary (called The Book of Secrets!!). Some very powerful people find ou...more
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