Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Straw Men

Straw MenThe Straw Men by Michael Marshall


Have you seen the movie The Island, with Ewan McGregor? It’s pretty much based off of a novel by Michael Marshall Smith called Spares, which, at one point, was optioned by DreamWorks. In fact, when I heard about the movie, I went to IMDB to see if maybe he was credited for the story. I was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t, since it would have brought the author a bit further into the mainstream.

I’ve been reading Michael Marshall for a while now, back when he still had the Smith attached to his name, and back when he wrote horror and science fiction. The Straw Men is a more mainstream novel, more like a thriller than anything else he’s written, but it still has the gritty sensibility and nihilistic look at the world that was such a signature of his earlier work.  Ward Hopkins, who has just barely recovered from his parents’ deaths, finds a cryptic note buried in his father’s office chair, which leads him to a video that is just as cryptic.  Enlisting the help of a friend of his (who conveniently works for the CIA), they start to track down the history of his parents, which turns into his own muddled history.

Alongside Ward’s investigation is a second story, of a CIA agent and an ex-policeman who are renewing their investigation into a serial killer who they thought was dead.  The story flip flops between the two stories, and though it’s a little jarring at first, it slowly becomes apparent that the two stories are intertwined (even if you haven’t read the back cover blurb).  They merge well, without the two stories seeming to be forced together, and the two stories occurring simultaneously means you get two chapters of one story, then two chapters of the other, and of course Smith is going to jump from one story to the other at the most possibly tense moment, to keep you reading.  It’s effective, and keeps you reading through the story.

The story is one of conspiracy theories and cover-ups, but not in the grander sense of The Da Vinci Code and its imitators.  It’s easy to believe in the characters and root for them, even if Smith’s outlook is dark, dismal, and hopeless; his lengthy expositions in the narrative suggest this more than the characters.  This novel is the first in a trilogy, though, so it may become grander in future volumes.  I’m pleased to report that the series is already complete and published, though.  If I had to wait too long to read the rest of the story, I’d probably grow a bit restless.


January 13, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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