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Friday, March 28, 2008

The Straw Men by Michael Marshall

I chose The Straw Men by Michael Marshall as my book to satisfy the "Thriller" Challenge for the Readers In Thongs Amazing Page Race Book Challenge. Stephen King's blurb on the cover assured me this book is "A Masterpiece". The back cover stated that this book is, "an epic thriller". What I think after reading this book is that Stephen King needs to re-evaluate his definition of "masterpiece", and whoever decided this book is an "epic thriller" has a very low threshold for suspense and thrills.

That said, this was a good book. I just don't think it lived up to all the hype on its cover, but then what book ever really does that? Very few in my experience.

The story of The Straw Men is told from 3 different perspectives. The first is Ward Hopkins, and his is the voice I liked best. His reflections on the state of the world as it concerns what people will do to one another as well as his wry, sarcastic sense of humor held my interest throughout the book. Given the sketchy background he reveals for himself, I thought he was somewhat naive, but his character is the right mix of strength and vulnerability rather than merely some super hero as is the case in many thrillers.

The second perspective is that of The Upright Man and his last victim; a teenaged girl he is holding hostage in an undisclosed location. There have been others before her, and none have met with a happy end. There is no reason to believe her fate will be any different.

The third view is that of an FBI agent and a former law enforcement officer who have had previous experience with the serial killings of The Upright Man. Their job is to find the teenaged girl before she is murdered. It appears to be an insurmountable task.

Interspersed with these three separate viewpoints is a series of apparently unrelated incidents. Or are they? As the story progresses it becomes clear that not only is nothing as it seems, but there is a thread binding all of these people and incidents together.

While I may not have been sold on the idea that this book is a real nail biter, I did like Michael Marshall's writing and his development of this story. He has written two sequels to The Straw Men, and I intend to read both. I'll just do it with a far more realistic idea of what I can expect.

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