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Michael Marshall ‘The Straw Men’ Review


Written by: Wayne C. Rogers

The Straw Men by Michael Marshall (a.k.a. Michael Marshall Smith, author of Spares, One of Us, and Only Forward) is probably one of the best “serial killer” novels ever written; yet, one readers probably won’t know about.

Unlike many of the author’s previous futuristic novels, this one takes place in the present day with flashbacks to the past.  It’s actually two stories (each story could have easily been turned into a successful novel) in one, which come together during the last hundred pages of the book to create an ending that will scare the living daylights out of you.  I kid you not.  This writer somehow is able to tap into the perverse evil that mankind is so often capable of perpetrating.

The first story deals with Ward Hopkins, ex-C.I.A., who returns home to Dyersburg, Montana to attend the funeral of his dead parents, both of which were killed in a tragic car accident.  What Ward eventually discovers while going through their home is that his parents may not have been who he thought they were.  In fact, they may still be alive, but in hiding from a deadly organization that refers to itself as The Straw Men.

With the help of his good buddy, C.I.A. agent Bobby Nygard, Ward starts searching for answers and inadvertently sets in motion several attempts by The Straw Men to eliminate both him and his friend.

The second story deals with a serial killer known as The Upright Man who takes his victims from the Los Angeles area of California.  When young Sarah Becker disappears one evening while sitting in front of a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Monica, waiting for her father to return, F.B.I. agent Nina Baynam realizes that The Upright Man has returned after being dormant for two years.  She enlists the help of ex LAPD Homicide Detective, John Zandt, who’d once helped her to hunt this serial killer, until his own daughter became a victim.

John, however, is determined that Sarah Becker isn’t going to die.  He’s going to do everything in his power to save her and to kill The Upright Man in a final act of revenge for destroying his life two years before.

Both stories will slowly converge into one as Ward, Bobby, Nina and John discover that’s there something much more deadly out there than just a single serial killer, and that it’s going to take all of their strength and courage to fight this force of evil that’s killing our children.

THE STRAW MEN is a tour de force for Michael Marshall.  The plot is intricately woven with strong, compelling characters that drive the story forward like a battering ram.  Mr. Marshall knows how to end each chapter with a sharp hook that keeps the reader glued to every single page in a frantic attempt to find out what’s going to happen next.  The last forty pages of this novel blew me away and will leave you literally speechless, not to mention fearful that the possibility of what the author suggests is, in fact, true.

The Straw Men is one of those tremendous surprises that all readers of suspense crave from the inner sanctum of their souls.  Buy it, read it, pass it on to your friends, then see if you can sleep at night without having nightmares that The Straw Men may be coming for you.


Order it here.

Rating: 5/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

3 Comments on Michael Marshall ‘The Straw Men’ Review

  1. I very much agree with Wayne’s review.

    The first time I read ‘The Straw Men’, I was intrigued but not quite hooked…but a year or so later when I read it again, I became utterly engrossed. The world of the Straw Men is eerie and unnerving.

    Best of all, ‘The Straw Men’ is the first of a trilogy that becomes even more engrossing. The story continues with increasing eeriness in ‘The Lonely Dead’ (released in the US as ‘The Upright Man’) and ends powerfully in ‘Blood Of Angels’.

    And now I feel like reading them all again 🙂


  2. Wayne, Sounds like a exciting read. I like the idea that his protagonist in the one story is male and in the other he has a female one. So often only one gender is the primary focus , especially in something that has the thriller aspect to it. I will need to keep this one in mind….as always…just me….vitina


  3. Loved this one, but struggled big time with The Lonely Dead. Time to revisit methinks.


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