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The Straw Men (The Straw Men Trilogy, Book 1) Paperback – 7 Apr 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • The Straw Men (The Straw Men Trilogy, Book 1)
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  • The Lonely Dead (The Straw Men Trilogy, Book 2)
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  • Blood of Angels (The Straw Men Trilogy, Book 3)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (7 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006499988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006499985
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 3.3 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

With The Straw Men, Michael Marshall Smith moves impressively from being a promising author of surreal mid-list novels which draw equally on sf, fantasy and noir thriller into new and even darker territory.

Teenage Sarah is kidnapped in LA and subjected to the endless mad rants of the man who has nailed her under the floorboards, who is slowly starving her as he has others before. Burned-out cop Zandt, whose own daughter was taken and never seen again, is called back into the investigation by his FBI ex-mistress. Drunken, off-the-rails, ex-CIA Wade investigates the things which do not add up in the deaths of the parents he did not know as well as he thought he did. This is a book whose ambiguously heroic heroes share an almost comic ruthlessness with its villains and yet which never ceases to draw a clear line between the merely wrong and the profoundly wicked. Along the way, both the nature of the underlying conspiracy and the smart moves needed to track it down are created with remorseless ingenuity.

Marshall Smith has the skill to create motives and moves that are at once insane, plausible and contemporary. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun in the world of the suspense novel, along comes one hell of a nasty spider call The Straw Men. It’s brilliantly written and scary as hell. Be the first on your block to stay up all night with this one; it’s a masterpiece, reminding us that even paranoids really do have enemies.’ STEPHEN KING

'A staggering, suspenseful journey through the darkness of American crime … succeeds in revitalising the serial killer novel with assured gusto… A new beginning for a major British writer, whose crime debut instantly moves him into the Thomas Harris division' Guardian

‘Brilliantly plotted, stunningly written … I read this in one go … if this isn't a hit, I am a monkey's uncle. And I don't think I am’. Independent on Sunday

‘Marshall’s descriptions of people and places are memorable and evocative and he has produced and absorbing mystery with a chilling denouement’ Sunday Telegraph

‘The Straw Men is a genuinely original thriller that combines the imagination and darkness of his previous work with bolts of nerve-screaming tension … Think “The X-files” meets “Hannibal”.’ Time Out

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the first Michael Marshall book I have read to date but I can safely say I will endeavour to read more. It is rare to find a book in this genre that is so well written. Keeping the reader gripped with a patchwork of perspectives; it displays the author's obvious intellect and has within it's pages passages that would not look out of place in texts that have theology or psychology as their main theme.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a murder/mystery thriller though would say that it goes way beyond that.
Excellent Mr Marshall! - More books of this quality please.
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Format: Hardcover
Being a huge fan of MMS's previous works, I delved into my proof copy of Straw Men in earnest. While it bears no resemblance to his previous works in content, you can't miss his solitary unique polished finish. Apparently gearing for the Thomas Harris crowd (according to the jacket), he definitely delivers. Ward Hopkins, basic wanderer in life, discovers his youth was a sham upon his parents "death". He then spends his energies on trying to decipher a cryptic video, apparently left to him by his parents. Zandt, the darkly mysterious former homicide detective is perfectly characterised and believable. The locations are so brilliantly hewn, you feel like you're sitting at a McDonald's in Pennsylvania after a single paragraph. Great in-jokes for anyone on either side of the pond. I still feel Spares was his best achievement but this book was definitely a top-notch read.
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By DiBosco VINE VOICE on 14 Aug. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Michael Marshall Smith undoubtedly has a fantastic talent for writing gripping, unusual prose. However, anyone expecting the zany, futuristic humour of his earlier novels will be disappointed in this dark, psycologically disturbing thriller.
The book is written in two parts: in the first person which is the gripping, intruiging side of the book as Ward tried to figure out a cryptic message left by his parents; the second part, in third person, the really disturbing and - at times - formulaic side of the story.
The first person narrative is what drives on the reader to find out the past of the narrator, the third person making you wonder at the side of humanity that could sink itself so low into a pit of abhorent crime.
Does tbe book make you read late into the night to find the fate of Ward, Bobby, Nina, Zandt and Sarah? Yes.
Is the book entertainment? Possibily not.
Is it a book that leaves you uncomfortable? Most definitely.
Not a "nice" book, but then - if half what's in this book goes on in real life - it's not a nice world.
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Format: Hardcover
'The Straw Men' is something of a departure from MMS's previous books of which I am a great fan. This book is more mainstream - aimed squarely at readers of Thomas Harris type books, forsaking the sc-fi elements of his previous books which make them so special.
Having said that, 'The Straw Men' is a perfectly readable thriller, combining MMS's distinct style of writing with a present day real life setting.
'The Straw Men' is a twofold mystery, the main charater Ward Hopkins is trying to discover the circumstances surrounding his parents sudden deaths in a car accident and if, somehow, they are still allive. In California Zandt and Nina (ex cop and FBI agent respectively) are racing against time to find the latest victim of the serial killer known as 'The Delivery Boy' Could the two events somehow be linked?
I wasn't expecting this to be another 'Spares' so I wasn't disappointed by the different style of book that MMS has written, however I did enjoy this book greatly.
Do yourself a favour though - after you have read this book go and read 'Only Forward' or 'Spares' and find out what Michael Marshall Smith is really famous for.
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Format: Paperback
It is difficult to see how criticism can be levied at an author for diverting from his usual genre and writing style to attempt something different. It must have been clear to Marshall's many fans that when he wrote Straw Men it was not to be the fare he has previously penned. He even changed his writing name in doing so. I read Straw Men and thought it was a superbly engaging and thrilling piece of prose. It led me to read the other books he wrote which I absolutely loathed. Not my style, surrealism, but how could I criticise Marshall for that? Onto the Straw Men itself. The opening is as gripping, shocking and disturbing as any I have read recently and immediately sets the tone for a very dark, cynical and grimly observed narrative. It is reminiscent in this respect of James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard. Marshall does not quite reach that classic status and perhaps 5 stars ought to be reserved for that level of talent and insight, but when compared to the rest of the genre currently, Marshall is streets ahead of the rest of the cadre of 'serious thriller' writers (distinguishing the likes of Harlan Coben and Rpbert Crais whose styles are slightly more tongue-in-cheek given the demeanours of their narrators). His ability to keenly observe in a sardonic and bitter way puts him in the same league as Ian Rankin. Characterisation of Ward Hopkins, John Zandt and Nina Baynam is good, not perhaps as good as Rankin's Rebus, but the characters are in general very well rendered. Dialaogue is utterly believable, which in my book is as important as anything other single aspect of a work of fiction. Bad dialogue will never be compensated for by great description whereas the reverse is not necessarily true - poor descriptive narrative can sometimes be compensated for very well by excellent dialogue. The Straw Men is a very accomplished and adriot entry into the thriller genre and there is much to behoove it. You will not be disappointed nor will you be able to put it down...
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