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The Empty Glass

3.19  ·  Rating Details ·  1,337 Ratings  ·  263 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 19, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was ok
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
Aug 02, 2012 Susanne rated it it was ok
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
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
Mary Ronan Drew
Aug 01, 2012 Mary Ronan Drew rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 05, 2012 Kathy rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2012 Tara rated it it was ok
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
Feb 04, 2013 Hydra Star rated it liked it
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
Dec 14, 2012 Susan Merrell rated it it was amazing
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.
Craig Pittman
Dec 04, 2012 Craig Pittman rated it it was ok
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
May 05, 2012 Kayleen rated it liked it
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
Stacy Fetters
Aug 05, 2015 Stacy Fetters rated it really liked it
What an extraordinary book.
A call comes into the station about a celebrity being dead and coroner Ben is on the case. It just so happens that the lovely Miss Monroe is the unfortunate soul. As he sneaks and peaks around, he finds her "diary" and calls the number in the book that is written everywhere.
At home, he realizes what he had and has to go back and get that diary. This is when his life starts to slowly explode right in front of his eyes.
An edge of your seat mystery that will leave you b
Sep 24, 2012 Naomi rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2012 Laurel-Rain rated it liked it
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
Sep 06, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it
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
Ryan Poehler
Jul 16, 2016 Ryan Poehler rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars for me! I loved this book. It blends historical fact with the famous conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn Monroe's tragic death. The narrative is told like a film noir from the '30s where the main character, Detective Ben Fitzgerald, is recounting the story to you as the character "the Doctor". It was an interesting and fun way to read through the story. I could understand how some parts of this storytelling may confuse readers, however I thought it was very creative and right up my ...more
Lisa B.
Sep 06, 2012 Lisa B. rated it really liked it
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
Merja Pohjola
Mar 03, 2013 Merja Pohjola rated it did not like it
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
Jul 10, 2012 ceeeeg rated it really liked it
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
Sep 15, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it
The literary equivalent of film noir. With the familiar troika of the mafia, the C.I.A. and the Kennedys all play into this dark little tale. A field day for conspiracy theorists. Ben Fitzgerald, Deputy Coroner, gets a little too curious about some things that seem out of place at the death scene of a particular well know actress, and it does not prove good for his health. Real life people populate this book, on the periphery, like Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Thomas Noguchi and the beautiful, ...more
Lucas Sarcona
Mar 05, 2016 Lucas Sarcona rated it liked it
On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe, an unparalleled icon of beauty and celebrity, died of an apparent drug overdose. With this, his first novel, J.I. Baker (executive editor at Condé Nast Traveler) fictionalizes the legend’s final days and the shroud of mystery surrounding her death—speculating that such a complex individual’s life may not have ended as simply as it seems. While once known as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Monroe was also one of Hollywood’s most disturbed starlets. She ...more
Jessica Wallace
Aug 23, 2015 Jessica Wallace rated it it was ok
Angie Fehl
Nov 25, 2014 Angie Fehl rated it liked it
What with the anniversary of JFK's assassination having just passed, I thought this one might be an interesting one to get into, and I do love me some good Hollywood noir from time to time. While being a novelization, this one does work in a lot of known fact as well as the more well known conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death.

This novel tells the story of Ben Fitzgerald, a coroner for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office (LACC). He's called in to investigate the body and bed
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
Rachel Ewe
Aug 03, 2015 Rachel Ewe rated it really liked it

When I was 12, I watched a made-for-tv movie on Marilyn Monroe. I had to go to bed before it finished (I begged to stay up past my bedtime but it was a no-go). I asked my babysitter how it ended and the answer offended my sensibilities to the very core: she killed herself. I found that ending hard to understand so I took myself to the public library the next day. It didn't take me long to discover that others, too, found the official version of her death to be implausible and
Day Rusk
Dec 28, 2014 Day Rusk rated it liked it
When it comes to the interests of powerful men, those in an inferior position would be best to remember the truth is merely an illusion. Ben Fitzgerald, a Deputy Coroner for the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office should have kept this in mind on August 5, 1962 when he was called to the Brentwood home of actress Marilyn Monroe, who was found dead early that morning by her maid.

Ben’s life is not simple. A previous scandal at the Coroner’s Office has tarnished his reputation and helped destroy his marria
Dan Downing
Nov 22, 2015 Dan Downing rated it liked it
Written in the crazed noir style of years gone by, "The Empty Glass" is a crazed noir set in a time gone by: the popular Los Angeles of the 60s. We have the usual cast---Kennedys, Marylin Monroe, Chief Parker, a disgraced ex-LAPD detective, the Mafia, the FBI, and so on. Pitted against everybody is a loser Deputy coroner who knows more than most but not enough to back away from the corruption that runs into the newspapers, the Coroner's office, the LAPD and everywhere else. This is the usual pic ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I started this book sometime last year and just now picked it up again and finishing it in a day. I appreciated this book more after stepping away from it. I was really impressed with the story. It's probably not an original idea but it was something that never crossed my mind during my reading.

My main problem with this book was the writing. The book is presented in writing by the main character to a doctor explaining how he got to the place he's in. However, it's as if what he's written was ta
Apr 26, 2013 AnnieBebop rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
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.
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