Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good sequel, but not as good as it's prequel, 2 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lonely Dead (Hardcover)
With the same wit and jarring insight that colors all his work, Marshall sets out to tell a story about paranoids, psychopaths and quasi-law enforcement officials... and we start to discover they aren't all as neatly separated as we want to think. John Zandt, Nina Baynam and Ward Hopkins are the only ones who know about the Straw Men and unfortuneately the acquisition this knowledge and the loss of Bobby Nygard and anything approaching their personal safety is doing a nicer job dismantaling their sanity than their new enemies could hope for. Unfortuneately the same can't be said for Ward's homicidal brother Paul and as the trail heats up again it remains to be seen if the trio can still cut it against the Straw Men.
The story is pacey and punchy, with lots of gore thrown in but it has to be said there is no chase to the finish here. People get killed, nobody stops it because nobody knows what's happening except the reader who can guess what's happening from a relatively early stage in the story. The final showdown is good, but not as good as The Halls (in my opinion that is) and the 'revelation' of the story carries a lack of credibility that makes me wonder if there was a point in it at all.
All that said the characterization is excellent and that's where the book shines. Ward's escalating disassociation from society... and tandem gravitation towards Paul is wonderfully played. Simultaneously the spectre of Bobby Nygard is clearly one that will be with him to stay and he has to deal with that. (I must say, I missed Bobby very much in this book. Without him to spar with Ward's wit and cleverness had little opportunity to shine through.) The damage done to Nina career wise and mentally is carefully illustrated - particularly in her relationship with the newly expanded character of SAC Charles Munroe. Paul's past and personality are explored making him seem both more, and so much less than human adding a tangible ambiguity to his situation that makes your mind think - hard. Meanwhile, as always, Zandt's character is played largely through actions and not words. Sadly, there weren't too many of those.
The main reason this book gets 4 stars and not the 5 that Straw Men recieved is because as it proceeds it becomes a more and more lopsided affair due to the inclusion of Ward and Nina's POVs but a lack of Zandt's. While I appreciate that keeping his actions secret did enhance the suspense of the novel, it also damaged it's flow and some of the credibility of Zandt's actions and by default the plot. By keeping Zandt in the frame, Marshall could have made things more even-handed and the revelations of the third act would have had more weight, if perhaps less wow-power... that is... if you can believe those revelations or not.

Of course, real life isn't evenly segmented like that so perhaps I have little right to comment.
Like I say, good book but roll on the next because this one was meant have the words 'to be continued...' stapled to the back cover.
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