There are few figures in Hollywood history more iconic than Marilyn Monroe, and few Hollywood deaths more mysterious than hers. Even the most casual reader of her death and its subsequent investigation has to come away thinking that the LAPD of 1962 was grossly incompetent, at best; at worst, there is reasonable cause to think that they covered up her murder.
Enter Private Investigator Extraordinaire Nate Heller, hero of multiple novels in Max Allan Collins’ long-running series and no stranger to world-famous historical figures and their mysterious fates. Collins has created nearly the perfect vehicle for writing fascinating non-fiction books without actually writing non-fiction. Heller began his career in the Chicago of the 1920s, frequently walking the tight-rope between befriending Chicago’s mobsters while not (completely) alienating the honest cops. Along the way he has been involved in everything from the Lindberg kidnapping to being a bodyguard for Amelia Earhart, has met everyone from the real-life Charlie Chan to Frank Sinatra. His life has been interesting, to say the least.
But what makes a new Nate Heller novel so compelling is the often ground-breaking research Collins does for his topic. When Nate became involved in the Black Dahlia case, Collins’ research was so thorough that 2 new non-fiction books on the case had to be delayed to incorporate his new findings, and it is precisely this verisimilitude that drives the Heller series from being merely entertaining to the level of must-reads.
And so, when Heller is hired by Marilyn Monroe and begins to move in circles that include Bobby and John Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, the reader believes what he or she is reading, and so believes the incredible conclusion that Collins eventually reveals. This latest entry, 10 years in the waiting, is as good as any others in the series and comes highly recommended by this reviewer.