BYE BYE, BABY by Max Allan Collins
Bye Bye, Baby isn’t a detective novel as much as it is a love letter from the author, Max Allan Collins. Collins makes no bones about his attraction to Marilyn Monroe, her story, or the mystery that surrounds her murder or suicide. Most of America is still split over exactly how the movie star’s death happened, but Collins puts up a convincing argument through his series sleuth, Nate Heller.
Heller is older in this one, still not quite settled down or too jaded to enjoy the world of the 1960s unfolding around him, but he’s not the young man he was in the early books in this series. His teenaged son gets some screen time in this one, and it’s nice to see Heller is a decent father as well as a detective.
Collins takes his time getting to Marilyn’s murder, introducing the movie star and the surrounding battles over her and her future, as well as her romantic life. He also presents Marilyn as equal parts innocent and master manipulator, so much so that by the end of the book I wasn’t sure if she was overreaching her ability to control the events and people around her or if that need to control was a knee-jerk reflex from all the stimulus of her life. How could anyone be caught up in as many things as Marilyn was not want to exercise some control over her life?
But I think that’s a large part of the message Collins is conveying with this novel. And there is a message here. Collins has an ax to grind with those in power, who were the Kennedys back in the day. He continues that grinding in the latest Heller novel, Target Lancer where he deals with the Kennedys again and moves through the assassination of J. F. K.
People who are looking for a quick read and a breezy mystery might be disappointed in this book, but those who was a deep look into the potential of Marilyn Monroe being murdered – as well as a long list of potential suspects, an insider’s view of the Kennedy family and Hollywood of the 1960s – are in for a great, informative read.
I was blown away by the amount of research that had gone into the book. Collins had evidently created a well-developed time-line of the days leading up to and following after the discovery of Marilyn dead in her bungalow home, and he wedges his scenes and conjectures seamlessly into the mix. You really can’t tell where the fiction begins and the truth ends.
Of course, that’s part of the mystique of Marilyn Monroe and this highly publicized suicide. Or murder. You will walk away from this novel knowing Marilyn Monroe better, and more than willing to believe she was murdered if you weren’t thinking that already.