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The Straw Men [Paperback]

Michael Marshall
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2002
In Palmerston, Pennsylvania,
two men in long coats walk calmly into a crowded fast food restaurant-then, slowly and methodically, gun down sixty-eight people. They take time to reload.

On the Promenade of Santa Monica, California, a teenaged girl gives sightseeing tips to a distinguished English tourist. She won't be going home tonight.

In Dyersburg, Montana, a grief-stricken son tries to make sense of the accident that killed his parents-then finds a note stuffed in his father's favorite chair. It says, "We're not dead."

Three seemingly unrelated events, these are the first signs of an unimaginable network of fear that will lead one unlikely hero to a chilling confrontation with The Straw Men. No one knows who they are-or why they kill. But they must be stopped. Michael Marshall's electrifying debut novel is an instant masterpiece of modern suspense. An epic thriller for anyone who has feared that someone is watching us.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Marshall's debut thriller, which is essentially two seemingly independent stories that meet in the middle, takes its time hooking readers. But once the complex and disparate plot lines meld, this expansive work demands the readers attention. In Dyersburg, Mont., narrator Ward Hopkins, attempting to make sense of the accident that killed his parents, discovers a note and videotape that lead him to believe their lives (and deaths) were not as they appeared. Meanwhile, the abduction of 14-year-old Sarah Becker renews the search for a serial killer who scalps his victims, embroiders their names into sweaters using their hair and then delivers the clothing to the victims parents. As Ward and his CIA buddy slowly unravel the mystery surrounding Wards parents, FBI agent Nina Baynam and former LAPD homicide detective John Zandt search for the elusive killer. Their paths cross when a series of connections is made between the victims and a bizarre cult known as The Straw Men. Marshall's book is filled with pages of uninterrupted description, which, while compelling, doesn't make for fast reading. But, to borrow a cliche, the devil is in the details. Thats certainly the case with this novel, whose graphic scenes of child abuse and dismemberment depict humankind at its most evil.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.


It's brilliantly written and scary as hell. -- Stephen King

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THE FUNERAL WAS A NICE AFFAIR, IN THAT IT was well attended and people dressed appropriately and nobody stood up at any point and said, "You realize this means they're dead." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Be prepared to feel cheated... May 14 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
At this point I don't think I need to go over what the book is about, the other reviews do that quite well. I am not the type of person who has to have all the loose ends tied up for me when I read a story or watch a film. I do not need everything neatly concluded and explained at the end. However, this book has some major issues with the believability of the circumstances that result in the twists and turns of the plot. It also has a problem with bringing the numerous story lines of the novel together. I don't mind a novel that leaves me with a little thinking to do, a need to perhaps go back over what has happened in the story to piece together some clues on my own. What I do mind, however, is an ending that is almost deliberately void of ANY conclusions regarding the mysteries that have kept me turning page after page. It is very easy to start a story, very easy to build suspense. It's not so easy, I guess, to end a story in a coherent and believable fashion. People want some reward for the suspense the author has easily created, not to be completely let down for their efforts----their efforts in following the story, keeping all the different plot twists and characters in mind, etc. I felt that the characters in this novel were not very well drawn. The main character, Ward Hopkins---not once could I even remotely picture him as a CIA agent, ex- or otherwise. The FBI agent, Nina---not one glimpse of who she was as a person ever came across, she seemed to be simply a mannequin used to fill the need for a certain type of character in the story. The characters of CIA agent Bobby, and detective Zandt, seemed more real. In one chapter, Ward goes to visit his childhood home, in which someone else is now living. Read more ›
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2.0 out of 5 stars When a book tries too hard... Sept. 11 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Michael Marshall used to publish great sci-fi novels under the name Michael Marshall Smith. But when his books didn't sell well in the States, he took his publisher's advice and reinvented himself by changing his name and by chosing to write fiction in a whole different genre. But as they say, some things are better left untouched. There is very little enjoyment to be found in this story that's just too complicated and too full of incompatible ideas for its own good.
The novel follows two different stories. The first is of a man who's parents died in a car accident. A conspiracy is soon unveiled, one that puts doubt over their death and over the man's own past. Then, you have the sad, broody cop who's hunting a killer who also kidnapped the cop's daughter (how original!).
Eventually, these two stories meet. But the reader is left in the dark for so too long that he soon loses interest. The connections between the two plots aren't strong enough to be believable. The moment the two stories meet, the book collapses, falling into a mess of subplot after subplot that never leads anywhere. The author just seems to be digging his own grave.
And the fact that the author never really explains anything doesn't help matters. I hate a book where everything is given to you. The reader should be left to discover SOME things by himself. But not everything. Marshall is so vague when it comes to explaining the plot that the reader is left wondering if the author every really knew himself what was going on.
The Straw Men is a mess of idea that never seem to mesh well with one another. And that's a shame, because Marshall can write very complicated and fully fleshed out stories. He can write great characters that are intriguing. But none of that is to be found in Straw Men. Maybe Michael Marshall should leave the Dean Koontz territory to Dean Koontz and stick with what he knows best: Sci-fi.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Straw Men Sept. 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Very simply, this novel gives the appearance of being something above the dog-eared crowd, but slowly it reveals itself to be made up of scenes that one can encounter in these sorts of books time and time again.
Underpinning everything is a great idea to try and run with: think Organized Serial-Crime. That's all I really want to say about the premise, as I will do the book a courtesy and assume pending readers want to discover for themselves that the book gets less clever, mysterious and surprising the farther it whisks along. Various seemingly random abductions, murders, mass slaughters, supposedly accidental car crashes, and sinister websites, occuring throughout the USA and beyond, are just waiting to be linked by anyone who can spot the connections. Enter our scattered heroes--John Zandt, former cop who lost his daughter to the infamous "Delivery Boy" serial killer; Zandt's former lover, Agent Nina, who comes back into his shattered life to tell Zandt that the Delivery Boy is back, under a new name; Walt Hopkins, average guy, who finds a video-tape deliberately left by his deceased father, that reveals his parents were not what he thought, and may have consorted with a sinister organization of shadowy "Straw Men" (plus, there's the note left for Walt, from Dad, that says his parents are not dead--a note Walt finds not too long after attending his mother's and father's funeral).
This sounds riveting, and admittedly, just a whiff of truly creepy mystery is palpable throughout half the book...the first half. In particular, the onslaught of dirty secrets Ward Hopkins can't help but uncover--peeling away onionskin-layers of illusion that cause grief and pain beyond tears, and turn his memories upside-down--make him and his horrible situation compelling.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, maybe 3 and a half stars
It was suspenseful enough to make me keep turning the pages.
Not so bad a book however like many other reviewers were saying there were some things that weren't really... Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2006 by Just another reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent from start to finish
The book is a smooth read. Somewhat predictable but good character development and a ending that welcomes a sequel that has just been released. Read more
Published on July 17 2004 by C. connolly
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Marshall = The Best Thing Going in Current Thrillers
THE STRAW MEN plays out like a dream-team collaboration by Stephen King (who hailed the book a masterpiece), Dean Koontz, Thomas Harris, and Michael Slade. Read more
Published on April 20 2004 by Scott Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars New book out!- Sequel!
I see there's a new paperback out, featuring Ward Hopkins, which I assume is a sequel. Due out 3/30/04. The Upright Man, Michael Marshall. I can't wait to get my hands on it!
Published on March 23 2004 by cakhuxel
5.0 out of 5 stars Will leave you pining for the sequel
Excellent read. The Straw Men has it all. Intriguing main characters, compelling plot, and mind-blowing plot twists. I have no idea why others hated it. Read more
Published on Dec 16 2003 by M. H. Mosher
5.0 out of 5 stars James Patterson Plus
Michael Marshall is the thinking man's James Patterson. It's a shame more people haven't heard of him or more importantly, his book, The Straw Men, which is really more like two... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2003 by PC Mountain
Like many other readers I tried to believe that Stephen King Blurb about how scary as $%#% this book was. This was the absolute worst book that I have ever read! Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2003 by Lameka Greenlee
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and scary!
It's not often these days that a book can genuinely frighten a voracious and jaded reader like yours truly, but this book gave me the heebie-jeebies. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2003 by Roy W. M. Sweeting
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
Well crafted and written with a sense of style and humor. If the narrative throws you you might be better off sticking to books that requires the assistance of crayolas. Read more
Published on July 30 2003 by Skipping/Ocean
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast and fun read!
Loved this book! Surprising twists left me hoping for the next book. His writing style is witty and sharp. Great book to take to the beach.
Published on May 9 2003 by Lydia French
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