Collins resurrects hard-boiled private eye Nathan Heller in this celebrity-studded take on Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962.
Heller, a Chicago-based private eye and celebrity magnet, is in California doing what he does best: hobnobbing with the rich, famous and notorious. One of those just happens to be the infamous sex goddess Monroe, who has hired Heller to tap her own phone. She has been feuding with her studio over a movie that shut down while filming, supposedly as a result of the actress’s instability. She’s afraid the studio is pinning the movie’s failure to launch on her and wants the tapes as protection, but Heller finds out there’s many more people interested in Monroe’s private conversations besides studio bigwigs, including, but not limited to, the Kennedys, Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, Joe DiMaggio and some of the biggest and most notorious gangsters during Monroe’s time. Heller gets curious and starts piecing together the web in which Monroe has gotten herself caught and finds that very powerful men are very, very afraid of what the slightly unstable, but very beautiful, young woman might be planning. Then, when she turns up dead, Heller believes a cover-up is underway and starts working to prove it. Collins writes the hard-boiled detective genre with a perfect ear, but his Heller is a tiresome name-dropper who has been involved in every event of historical importance in the proceeding 35 years, including Hugh Hefner’s purchase of the Playboy Mansion and the Bay of Pigs. Driving his white Jag, wearing his Botany 500 suits and stuffing his Ray-Bans in his pocket, Heller has sex with Monroe, gives advice to Bobby Kennedy and trades insider jokes with the Rat Pack. The author says he did a lot of research for the book, but sometimes the narrative reads more like a series of encyclopedia entries than fiction, and the character of Heller simply isn’t charming or interesting enough to rate so much attention from high-rollers.
Nothing new or very interesting in this rehashing of rumors surrounding Monroe’s death, even for those who were around when she died.