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The Straw Men by Michael Marshall Smith
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This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge's Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge's Exalted Permission. Title: The Straw Men Series: The Straw Men Author: Michael Marshall Rating: 3 of 5 Stars Genre: Horror Pages: 404 Format: Kindle digital edition Synopsis: A man's parents die and leave him a clue that will start him down a mysterious and dark path. A young teen girl is kidnapped and a former cop, who's own daughter was abducted, is brought on board by an FBI agent to try to save the girl. Both of these plots weave and twine together in a horrific clash of the worst of humanity. My Thoughts: I'd like to thank Runner for putting this book, and this trilogy, on my radar. I was conflicted during the whole read. On one hand, it was gripping, well written and I DID NOT WANT TO STOP READING. On the other hand, dipping my mind, no matter how tangentially, into the cess pool of an insane killer who has formed a whole group of uber-rich killers of like mind, was disgusting and left me feeling filthy. I also noticed just how bleak and hopeless everything was. I don't want that type of thinking to invade my mind. There is hope and there is meaning and there is purpose. As Browning wrote, God’s in His heaven—All’s right with the world! The above is why I gave this book 3 stars. On the writing side, it was a strong 4, maybe 4.5. I just couldn't put this down and wanted to read and read and read. I'll be finishing the trilogy but after that I suspect I won't be reading any more by Marshall. Bleak and Hopeless aren't things I can deal real well with on a continual basis. If you want a taut, horrific thriller, this is the book for you. "
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
There are two authors from the shores of Great Britain one English and one Irish and they both, in my opinion, have similarities in their style and subjects of writing. I am speaking firstly about John Connolly and his wonderful antihero Charlie Parker who suffered the sad loss of his wife Susan and daughter Jennifer and this in turn haunts all that follows “I have learned to embrace the dead and they in turn have found a way to reach out to me” Former homicide detective John Zandt is the creation of Michael Marshall and in a similar way to Parker has suffered great loss with the kidnap and murder of his own daughter Karen.”They tried to hold it together. They failed. His position had been untenable. Either he bore the horror of Karen’s disappearance and remained strong for his wife, while feeling like he was going to break apart into small sharp pieces: or he could reveal the pain he was in. When he did so he lost the male claim to strength without gaining any foothold on the high ground of revealed trauma that was the preserve of women. It was her job to express the outrage; it was his to withstand it.”

In The Straw Men Zandt is persuaded to come out of early retirement since it appears that the psycho who abducted and killed his daughter has found another victim. Both authors have a great knowledge of the American landscape used to great effect in their storytelling and it is a shame to realize that Michael Marshall has really not achieved the acknowledgement and acclaim he so richly deserves.

The Straw Men is the story of the search for those who kidnapped Sarah Becker...but it is much more than that. Ward Hopkins returns to the home of his recently deceased parents where a note awaits him and makes him question the truth behind not only their recent car crash but his very existence. As Hopkins is drawn deeper and deeper into the past he encounters the shadowy sinister world of the Straw Men and fate will lead to a meeting with John Zandt and an incredible revelation connected to The Upright Man.

The story is fast, multi layered but never over complex, with a very descriptive and intelligent yet observant prose. There is a scene where Ward Hopkins is in a bar waiting for his ex CIA buddy Bobby to arrive and as he looks around he observes.....”They looked up at me grimly when I came in. I didn’t blame them. When I get to their age, I’ll resent young people too. I resent them already, in fact, the slim little fresh-faced assholes. I don’t find it surprising that super-old people are so odd and grumpy. Half of their friends are dead, they feel like shit most of the time, and the next major event in their lives is going to be their last. They don’t even have the salve of believing that going to the gym is going to make things better,that they’ll meet someone cute in the small hours of a Friday night or that their career is suddenly going to steer into an upturn and they’ll wind up married to a movie star. They’re out the other side of all that, onto a flat, grey plain of aches and bad eyesight, of feeling the cold in their bones and having little to do except watch their children and grandchildren go right ahead and make all the mistakes they warned them about.”

This is a wonderful rich dark tale which the author manages to balance with a growing feeling of uneasiness and fear. It is also an observational study of access and the true value of existence..”They were doing it for some god, some ideology, some fallen comrade or ancient grievance. They weren’t just doing it for themselves. Bobby realized this made a difference, and also that if we were all the same species, there was little hope for us; that nothing we ever did in the daytime would bleach out what some of us were capable of at night. Some aspects of human behaviour were inevitable, but this was surely not. To believe so was to accept that we had no downward limit. Just because we were capable of art didn’t mean what lay in front of him could be dismissed as aberration, that we could take what we admired and fence that off as human, dismissing the rest as monstrous. The same hands committed both. Brains didn’t undermine the savagery. They made us better at it. As a species we were responsible for all of it, and carried our dark sibling inside.”

A brilliant dark story...an astounding author....my highest recommendation!! ( )
  runner56 | Dec 22, 2015 |
This book starts off with a bang! And it does pretty well to maintain that momentum, though some of the characters' inner dialogues and general musings get a little boring. 3 plot lines intertwine well, and as the Straw Men are tracked down, and the Upright Man pursued, we gruesomely discover that almost anything can be ordered, if a person has enough money. And the secrets that are revealed in The Halls, and at the end, are enticing enough to make me want to read the next book! ( )
1 vote Stahl-Ricco | Apr 30, 2015 |
The Straw Men is a gripping story that will keep on the edge from the very first page. You will be making guesses, trying to make out conclusions and even if you get some of it right that does not reduce the thrill any.

It is quite hard to write this review without spoilers, but I will try.

The story begins with a shoot out in a small town in Pennsylvania where two gunmen kill sixty-eight people without even blinking an eye. We are then taken a decade later where we meet Ward, an ex CIA agent, attending his parents funeral in Montana. After the funeral as he visits his parents' home he finds a note hidden there that simply says "We're not dead". Trying to find out the truth he sets in motion a series of events that lead him to a wild goose chase for the truth - truth about who his parents were and who he really is.

At the same time in California a sixteen year old girl is abducted, which is linked to a notorious serial killer who was absent for two years. As the book proceeds we find out how these three events are interconnected and how a mysterious group that call themselves The Straw Men fit here.

This was the first book I read by Michael Marshall and I know it will not be the last. I fell in love with his characters, all of them. An ex CIA agent trying to collect his life back after everything he ever believed in is shattered. A police officer in a quest for revenge when deep inside he is in war with himself. A FBI agent who remembers the height her career was once in and is struggling to pull it back there by trying to catch the most wanted killer. A CIA agent with a fierce sense of loyalty, and humor. And a killer who is advocating his cause and justifying the killing but is just trying to piece his sense of self together again. They were all beautiful. Even the side characters and their motives were beautifully expressed. Everybody had a place in this book and everybody had a role in the story, some we may realize later than sooner.

The plot was slower than in most thrillers with more details about the mindset of the characters and what is driving them forward rather than the actual story but I didn't mind it. The story was pieced together beautifully and transitions between the situations and characters were smooth. I like books that tell the story from alternating point of views and all the characters held my attention, even Sarah with her incoherent rantings. Each character's essence was captured and it was easy to distinguish who was thinking the particular paragraph I was reading - which made me like the book even more. The last few chapters were so explicitly described it made me wince. It was even hard to even imagine the atrocities described and to write it down in such detail was so horibble and yet so wonderfully in sync with the book.

There are a few plot-holes but since this is a series I guess my queries will be answered in the next books. But even as a stand-alone The Straw Men will put you on the edge and make you rethink about every crime, every massacre, every natural disaster and every plague that threatened human lives and wonder if there was not any inherent motive to all of it.

A well deserved 5 stats! ( )
1 vote shayanasha | Apr 5, 2013 |
An interesting book. Thrilling, scary at times.
What I liked was the different angles/ points of view from which the story was told.

I understand that this book couldn't be bigger to contsin the whole story. But for some reason I'm not curious or impressed enough to start looking for part 2 and 3. So this was a good read, but it stays at that. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Vrienden, Buren, Seriemoordenaars
Wij zijn te laat voor goden
En te vroeg voor Zijn
Het gedicht van Zijn,
Pas begonnen, is de Mens

Martin Heidegger
Taal, waarheid, gedachte
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Voor Jane Johnson
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The funeral was a nice affair, in that it was well attended and people dressed appropriately and nobody stood up and said, "You realize this means they're dead."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0515134279, Mass Market Paperback)

The first in an explosive trilogy of thrillers from Michael Marshall. This book takes the serial-killer book ands adds a chilling new dimension, combining pace, narrative and a genuinely disturbing conspiracy story. The Straw Men. They kill people. Any people. Sarah Becker is the fifth girl to be abducted by this maniac. Judging from the state of the bodies that have been found, her long hair will be hacked off and she will be tortured. She has about a week to live. Former LA homicide detective John Zandt has an inside track on the perpetrator - his own daughter was a victim two years ago. But the key to Sarah's whereabouts lies with Ward Hopkins, a man with a past so secret not even he knows about it. His parents have just died in a car accident, but they leave Ward an enigmatic message that leads him to question everything he once believed to be true.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:13 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Sarah Becker is the fifth girl to be abducted by this maniac. Judging from the state of the bodies that have been found her long hair will be hacked off and she will be tortured. She has about a week to live.

» see all 2 descriptions

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