Some weeks ago I read The Straw Men by Michael Marshall the first part of a trilogy by an author who has never received the acclaim and recognition that he so richly deserves. I thought The Straw Men was an excellent read and was doubtful if the style, character development, and story could be bettered in a sequel. I need not have worried, The Lonely Dead has exceeded all my expectations, it is quite simply a stunning novel told by an expert author.
Ward Hopkins, ex CIA agent, is a man with a secret past, and he is determined to confront the murderers of his parents and trace the whereabouts is his lost brother Paul “The Upright Man” a deranged serial killer. His parents had been murdered by a group that his father had belonged to 35 years earlier...”the Straw Men, and believed themselves the only portion of humanity uninfected by a virus promoting social conscience above the cold-hearted individualism they believed inherent to our species. Whether they genuinely thought this, or it was just a convenient cover for acts of violence and depravity, was not clear.”
John Zandt, former LA homicide detective has his own special agenda for seeking out The Upright Man, an enforcer under the auspices and protection of The Straw Men. His daughter Karen was brutally murdered by him, and he seeks revenge whatever the cost. Adding to the intrigue is Nina Baynum, FBI agent, and former friend and lover to John Zandt.
What makes for a good thriller is the author’s ability to capture the reader’s attention from the first page and to retain that enthusiasm throughout a multi layered tour de force journey straddling the coasts of America. What on the face of it seems like a complex novel is made eminently readable by a very direct and approachable writing style. I found myself richly involved in the storyline whether that was in the cold mountain forests of Washington State, the Verona logettes of Bill and Patrice Anders, or the corridors of the Seattle Fairfew hotel where “Miss Katelyn” the night manager meets an unexpected intruder with murderous intent. This second book in the trilogy also imparts a little history on The Straw Men and it seems their ancestry reached back many hundreds of years..”The Straw Men were here back in the 1500’s? Get real. They were here long before that. They got here first, Ward. They stole America from the locals four thousand years before anyone else knew it was here”.
This is truly a wonderful read, a thriller with elements of the supernatural, and a storyline that pulses excitement and thrills at every page. The ending when it occurs is perfect and leaves the setting poised for the third and final instalment. If you only read one thriller this year let that story be The Lonely Dead...of course I am presuming you have already enjoyed its predecessor The Straw Men. Highly highly recommended!!