Blood of Angels
416p. Jove. $7.99
Michael Marshall's (AKA Michael Marshall Smith) "Straw Men" trilogy falls into the thriller category, but the books are so dark and disturbing they might also be considered as contemporary horror. There's also a weird, if not supernatural, vast-conspiracy-against-all-humanity theory that spooks them up somewhat. The third of three (following The Straw Men and Upright Man), Blood of Angels features ex-CIA operative Ward Hopkins, his now-girlfriend FBI agent Nina Baynam and, eventually, ex-Los Angeles police detective John Zandt. They are fighting the murderous Straw Men, an ancient brotherhood that feels humanity went haywire with civilization and sees killing as many members of it as possible as its duty. One of its most effective operatives is Paul, a twin who Ward never knew existed until his parents were murdered back in book one. At the end of book two, Paul was safely ensconced in prison, but springing a federal prisoner is nothing for the Straw Men. On the east coast, a deceptively mild-mannered Florida tourist photographer is set on a shady mission by the man he thinks of as the Forward Thinking Boy (Paul, of course). Across the country, So-Cal rich kid drug-dealer Lee John Hudek is drawn into bigger and more deadly things than supplying pills for his pointless peers. Ward and Nina's rural respite in the Pacific Norwest comes to an end when Nina is pulled back into FBI work to investigate a possible female serial killer in Virginia. The three story lines are braided into a quick-burning fuse of a standalone novel that's nearly impossible to stop reading. Marshall's fluid writing is several notches higher than that of the average thriller and there's more than sheer entertainment here, too. The novel is, to some extent, a meditation on the meaning of death and, more obviously, cannot help but consider a world where organizations of killers who delight in death and destruction are not fiction. The first of this trilogy was praised by Stephen King as a "masterpiece"; this one may be even better. (CFQ Vol. 37, Issue #8)
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Note: The first two books of the series are The Straw Men (2002) and The Upright Man (2004) (known as The Lonely Dead in the UK). As Michael Marshal Smith, the author's works include the collection More Tomorrow and Other Stories (2003), and novels One of Us (1998), Spares (1996), and Only Forward (1995). In addition to the reviews of More Tomorrow and Other Stories and Spares there is also an interview with Michael Marshall Smith on the DarkEcho site.