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The Empty Glass Hardcover – July 19, 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for THE EMPTY GLASS by J. I. Baker:


The Empty Glass comes rampaging out of the gate and keeps on roaring and roistering until the sad, salutary shock of its final pages. After I started, the vivid writing and the presence of the unhappy latter-day Marilyn Monroe kept me reading all the way to the end. I want to tell everyone within the sound of my voice to buy this splendid novel. It's really punchy and really good, and you really should read it.”

 —Peter Straub, award-winning author of In The Night Room


“J.I. Baker takes a bold run into Cain and DeLillo territory and scores. The Empty Glass is chilled and redolent of a good gin martini, leaving you primed to order another.”

 —Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart


“Stylishly written and perfectly paced, The Empty Glass is noir fiction re-imagined for the modern era, a novel that is sharp, smart and breathlessly fast-paced, yet somehow manages to convey the slow burn of an old regret. As such, it marks the auspicious debut of a new voice in American suspense.”

 —Thomas H. Cook, Edgar Award-winning author of Taken


“[In The Empty Glass] Baker conjures a suitably paranoid atmosphere and crackling dialogue in this look at the seedy intersection of celebrity, politics, and power.”



The Empty Glass is riveting, brilliant, and endlessly fascinating. Writing from a wholly original perspective, J.I. Baker has combined the history and myth surrounding one of the most intriguing deaths of last century and created a shocking, unputdownable thriller. ”

 —Jason Starr, author of The Craving


“J. I. Baker has spun a gripping and pulse-pounding conspiracy. Smart, perfectly atmospheric, and ultimately heartbreaking, The Empty Glass is one not to miss. It will stay with you long after the final page.”

 —Andrew Gross, author of 15 Seconds and co-author of six #1 NYT bestsellers with James Patterson


“[An] imaginative 1960s yarn.”

US Weekly


“Marilyn Monroe is dead...by suicide. So why does all the evidence suggest that she was murdered? Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald’s relentless search for answers leads him down a dangerous path away from his sanity—and [he] takes readers along with him....a totally credible imagining of [Monroe’s] uncensored speech: breathy, sparingly punctuated and a little bit lost.... but Baker is totally in control, and watching him lead his hero along a precarious tightrope of reason is scary—and totally exhilarating.”

—Nathalie Gorman, Oprah.com


“It's LA CONFIDENTIAL meets the Bio channel with a little TMZ thrown in for fun.”



“Baker imagines Marilyn Monroe’s death through the eyes of the coroner. Mixing fact and theory, this taut thriller explores conspiracies around her as well as the official’s own psychological turmoil.”



“James Ellroy fans will relish Baker’s impressive first novel, a dark paranoid thriller … barbed prose makes a familiar story fresh. Fluent in the noir idiom, Baker maintains the depressing atmospherics throughout.”

Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

About the Author

J. I. Baker is the executive editor of Conde Nast Traveler, and a former development editor at Time Inc. He has also worked at Real Simple, Glamour, and US Weekly and is a founding editor of Time Out New York. This is his first novel.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press; First Edition edition (July 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399158197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399158193
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,185,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
`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 book covers some old ground i.e. the Kennedy's connection to Marilyn, US relations with Cuba, possible LAPD corruption, speculation about the role of the Mafia, and possible FBI involvement in Monroe's death, etc. This isn't just a re-hash. Baker includes theories and the why's behind those theories that I'd never heard before and they don't sound like mad innuendo. They seem plausible. Baker's sense of place and time is extraordinary. His descriptions of the city add depth.

Fitzgerald is portrayed as a family man with an estranged wife and a young son he loves. He's had prior scuffles at work so he's perfect to play the fall guy especially since he won't let this murder mystery alone. His family is his Achilles heel and a tool for the bad guys to use. It's his love, especially for his son, that keeps Fitzgerald moving in his investigation. Sadly he's only one step ahead of his pursuers....and sometimes a half a step behind. This is a gritty film nourish book. You can feel the streets of 1960's Los Angeles breath. "The Empty Glass" is as film ready as anything Chandler wrote. My only issue with the book is it feels disjointed and a little too slick. Suspend belief and get ready for a wild ride.

The review is based on an e-galley provided by the pulisher.
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Format: Hardcover
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?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 unlikelihood that someone taking an overdose would be clutching a phone. There is an empty glass that is there...and then not there. A mysterious red diary appears...and then disappears.

Deputy Coroner Ben Fitzgerald is the primary narrator who is frustrated by the apparent cover-up. He is determined to find the answers.

But will his life be at risk as he struggles to learn the truth? Who are the enemies? The Mafia or others unknown? What do the police and even his boss at the Coroner's office have to hide, and why are they fighting his investigation? What lies and deceptions will trouble him in the days ahead?

From the recovered diary and mysterious tapes, our narrator eventually learns some of what transpired, but will it be too late? And how can he protect his young son?

The Empty Glass was a captivating mix of fact and fiction that left me with more questions than answers. Told in an unusual narrative style that jumped around from the present to the past and then ahead to the future, I had a hard time making sense of it at times. 3.5 stars.
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