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The Straw Men (Straw Men #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  3,817 Ratings  ·  272 Reviews
Who are they?

What do they want?

Why do they kill?

Can they be stopped?

You know who they are . . . if you've ever known fear.

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 teenage girl gives s
Published May 19th 2004 by Jove Books (first published 2002)
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Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't ordinarily read thrillers, but I really enjoyed this. Marshall has an amazingly clever turn of phrase, and the book hooked me so badly that I read the whole thing in one sitting.
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, thriller
THE STRAW MEN, by Michael Marshall is one of the most absorbing, powerful thrillers that I have ever come across! This begs the question of how three entirely separate incidents in the beginning of the novel could possibly be interconnected. Marshall weaves a complex web of mass murders, abduction, and intricate cover-ups into one all-consuming tale.

Serial killers were not chilling in and of themselves. The chill was in the realization that it is possible to be human without feeling as other hu
5.0 stars. This one might even make it onto my 6.0 star list. This was a great read and is teh first in a series about a "global secret society" of "serial killers" with an agenda to change the world (and kill a lot of people in the process). I thought the description of the "Straw Men" society and its "theory" of human evolution was very clever and put the book a cut above the average thriller. Highly recommended.
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A well-drawn suspense/thriller with intersecting plots of deception, murder, family secrets, and conspiracy. If foreshadowing is anything, sh*t is going to get even crazier in the next installments.

Written extremely well with thought out plot lines and true depth of character. Solid 4+ Stars! Highly Recommended.
Jon Recluse
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
A thinking person's serial killer suspense novel that blends conspiracy theory with the "Millennium" television series to potent effect. Marshall avoids the more garish trappings of the sub-genre, using subtlety, hints and insinuation rather than blood spatter and posturing to carry the story, allowing the suspense to build slowly, as the dark secret hiding in the shadows of this tale takes shape.

Highly recommended.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book you can sink your teeth into...

The Straw Men don't exist - or do they? If so, how are they connected to mass killings, occasional abductions and the parents of sort-of loner Ward Hopkins? And what if anything do they have to do with the abduction of a fourteen-year old girl on the West Coast?

Introduced are the three MC's, Ward Hopkins, John Zandt, and Sarah Becker. Hopkins is on his way home to bury his parents; Zandt is a former homicide detective dragged out of early retirement to look
Shambhawi P.
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not the faint of heart
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, a
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Actually for about the first 3/4 of it,
I was enjoying it a LOT. Michael Marshall Smith certainly knows how to
keep a reader engaged. Here's a story with three converging storylines, each one teasing us along with the mystery of what the heck is going on.

I had only heard of Michael Marshall Smith via the Pod of Horror podcast. This is a great show, by the way, and it's introduced me to several writers I'm looking forward to reading.

Back to The Straw Men. This isn't
Liz Barnsley
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ward Hopkins returns to his parents home after they are killed in a car accident. Whilst at the house, he discovers a note from his father...and so begins a journey into his past and that of his loved ones, a dangerous journey of discovery that may not end well. Meanwhile a young girl, Sarah, has gone missing and former LA Detective John Zandt, a man fighting his own demons, begins his own journey of discovery. Is it possible that Ward holds the key to saving Sarah from her fate?

This is a beauti
Nov 13, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This is copy 519 of 774 signed and numbered copies signed by Michael Marshall Smith.
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thriller Fans
A very engaging thriller, which also poses its fair share of phylosophical questions regarding human nature. It's got two distinctive story lines which apparently have nothing to do with each other until they merge at the end; each sub-plot carries a well defined set of characters and the pacing is quite even, keeping you intrigued all throughout the book, and it rewards you with a massive twist that is the basis for the rest of the books of the series, although this one has a conclusion. The st ...more
On the whole a good & engrossing thriller that moves along at a fair pace with the tension building up nicely. While the story had me gripped for the most part it didn't hold me quite the same towards the end. It seemed a bit rushed somehow & I felt there were some loose ends that could have done with a bit more of an explaination.
Laura Lam
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Michael Marshall writes horror under this name, but is also known for his science fiction, which he writes under Michael Marshall Smith. Perhaps he was inspired by Iain (M.) Banks, who likewise changes names depending on the genre.

The Strawmen is a brutal, well-written horror story about a mysterious group of mass murderers called The Straw Men and a lone serial killer to may be tied to them, who calls himself the Upright Man. The Upright Man kidnaps a young, 16-year-old girl
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read The straw Men after reading one of Michael Marshall's later books Killer Move which happened to make a passing mention to the titular group of this book aka The Straw Men.After completing the book I am going to make a claim that might seem too astronomical to some that Marshall is as good as any other contemporary & popular thriller writers like John Grisham, David Baldacci or Lee Child.Now let me get to the review.

The book is about an ex CIA agent who after the death o
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I picked up this book on the strength of of the cover endorsement blurb by Stephen King, who called it "a masterpiece."

I was fooled. The book is interesting -- for writing and plot. But I realized, at book's end, that the author had failed to answer a key question. That made me devalue the whole story.

Backtracking, "Straw Men"'s about a grown only child who lives away from his parents, and isn't emotionally close to th
Michelle (meshe)
Synopsis: This book brings two different stories that seem to be totally unrelated, but we know that they are going to converge at some point.
Ward Hopkins returns home to Montana after his parents die in a car crash to find a note hidden in his dad's chair that reads "We're not dead". His buddy Bobby Nygard, a CIA agent helps him unravel his history and uncover a group called "The Straw Men".
John Zandt, a former police detective is looking for "The Upright Man" who has abducted 5 teenage girls
HT Goodwill
I suppose it was well written, I did finish it after all. If the author's goal was to leave a lasting impression on me, it worked. However, I found it to be profoundly disturbing, and images and ideas haunted me (not in a fun "I had a nightmare" way) for years. The quality of my life was measurably diminished because of the images this book placed in my head.

Here's the one positive thing I gained from the experience of this book: I now am very discriminating about what I read. If it brings darkn
Liliana Luna
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un thriller con dos historias paralelas que se entrelazan y se vuelven adictivas, una excelente historia, con personajes bien construidos y con la pluma del escritor muy fluida y entretenida, la forma en la que esta escrita es muy buena.
Trev Twinem
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant dark story from an astounding author 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” F ...more
Andrew King
May 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam Whitehouse
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, crime, thriller
This is it. This is how you write a thriller. I've read a lot of thrillers and it's pretty rare to find authors who can deliver on plot, action, pace and writing (Stephen King, Lee Child are two of only a handful), but Michael Marshall delivers all that and more in this first installment in the Straw Men trilogy. This is a multi-layered novel with a rich, disturbing mythology that makes you wonder if it all isn't true. Right from the start, Marshall builds a high-tension atmosphere. His writing ...more
Sep 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that enjoy mystery/the chase
Recommended to Patricia by: saw it on GoodREADS
I really like a book that surprises me. Too many of them are predictable. While reading the first couple of chapters, I was interested but waiting. Then when I got to about chapter 3, it was BAM! My mouth dropped open. I loved it. Never expected the plot twist. Man I love that in a book and an author. If this book proves to be as excellent as it's beginning, it will be one of the best I have read in a while.

This was a book that kept me guessing, even in the second to last chapter I was still bei
Oct 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I haven't done that for a while: picked up a book and devoured it with every spare waking moment over little more than two days. I have been pushing this book around for more than half a decade, and have nearly purged it from the collection more than once in that time, but it was very much worth the wait.

A well-paced page turner, this, with really nothing in the way of extraneous moving parts. The best feature to my mind, aside from the rather compelling main plot points, was the lengthy m
Pamela Mclaren
An intriguing book that starts with several mysteries - a mass murder at a fast-food restaurant, the kidnapping of a young girl and the death of an elderly couple who have left their son a message that they aren't really dead.

Soon we are following that son, Ward Hopkins, and his friend, a CIA operative named Bobby, as they try to find out more about the couple and what really happened to them. At the same time, we also follow an ex-homicide detective, and an FBI agent trying to find the solutio
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Well that was creepy. What seems to be a straight forward thriller, twists into a secret history of the twentieth century. Almost anything else would be straying into spoilers territory. However, there is one clever idea that I can talk about without too much risk. Michael Marshall Smith seems at first to be using an idea from Matt Ridley's, "Nature via Nuture", specifically the Self-taming hypothesis of human origins. This idea was also explicitly used by Richard Morgan in "The Black Man". Howe ...more
Barbara Szemerei
This is everything I want in a dark fiction. A shocking beginning, intelligent incites, dark humor, great creep factor. The book swaps between character perspectives every chapter and when some books do that you might end up hating a 5th of the book if one character is badly realized or their part of the plot it tiresome. Not here. Every character is interesting. Each sub plot is entertaining. And even though I guessed the twist in the last 25 pages I would have been disappointed if I was wrong. ...more
Oct 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well I'm glad I stuck with this one. After a couple of chapters I was prepared to give up on it, so I had a browse at the reviews on here and decided to carry on a while. I'm so pleased I did, I was hooked and couldn't wait to get back at it, even went past my stop on the bus one night! Unfortunately I'd caught sight of a spoiler so knew the connection between Ward and the Upright Man, but how it was revealed in the book was still a surprise. Off to look for the other two in the trilogy now.
Stephen King recommended book. He says: "The Straw Men is brilliantly written and scary as hell. Be the first on your block to stay up all night with this one; it's a masterpiece."

Well-crafted with characters you care about. Love how all the threads come together with a nice surprise, although if I'd been thinking harder about it I could have predicted it. Almost read the whole book in one day it was such a page-turner. Now I'm hooked on a new series.
James Campbell
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one excellent read! I felt I was kept engaged throughout the entire book. The story jumped around to focus on different characters, but it all comes together in fast paced, well laid out ending.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I just couldn't get into this, which is surprising, because what I read of it was well-written and the plot had potential. Maybe it was just taking too long...? I don't know. But this one couldn't pull me in.
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A pseudonym used by Michael Marshall Smith

Michael Marshall Smith (who dropped the "Smith" to write The Straw Men) lives in north London with his wife Paula, and is currently working on screenplays and his next book, while providing two cats with somewhere warm and comfortable to sit.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more inf
More about Michael Marshall...

Other Books in the Series

Straw Men (3 books)
  • The Upright Man (Straw Men)
  • Blood of Angels (Straw Men)

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“We’re so used to being edited, so infected with the sleight of hand of the media, that we’re more aware of what’s been added than of what has been taken away.” 3 likes
“The food chain has victims at both ends: even rapists and murderers need someone to look down on, and kid killers will do nicely.” 2 likes
More quotes…