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Straw Men #3

Blood of Angels

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Tense and suspense-filled thriller from the author of The Straw Men and The Lonely Dead.
Notorious serial killer the Upright Man has escaped from a supermax prison. The FBI have no idea how it happened, or where to start looking. Ex-CIA agent Ward Hopkins suspects the Straw Men, a shadowy conspiracy of killers with a macabre agenda.

But apart from Ward’s girlfriend Nina, a discredited federal agent, the only person who believes the Straw Men even exist is John Zandt, a homicide detective obsessed with tracking down his daughter’s killers- and who is now wanted for murder himself.

The terrifying thing is that Ward’s right- his brother was broken out for a reason. The Straw Men are planning something big.

And now only Ward, Nina and Zandt stand between them and a spectacular act of carnage…

560 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Michael Marshall

172 books391 followers
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 information.

(1) Michael Marshall - Religion/Spirituality
(2) Michael Marshall - Acting
(3) Michael Marshall - Fishing/Geography
(4) Michael Marshall - German Children's Books
(5) Michael Marshall - Indonesian Fiction

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5 stars
504 (29%)
4 stars
674 (39%)
3 stars
406 (23%)
2 stars
95 (5%)
1 star
22 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Rob Twinem.
854 reviews37 followers
May 1, 2016
"The crucial thing about Michael Marshall is that he is enormously readable....Once you have started one of his books you won't want to stop" (The Independent uk) His books are much more than mere thrillers and his characterization creates memorable participants in stories that have a certain gothic/horror feel similar to the Charlie Parker series created by the amazing John Connolly. Connolly in his books has the shadowy figure of "The Collector" and Marshall has created in this trilogy (The Straw Men, The Lonely Dead and Blood of Angels) a group known as the Straw Men who operate outside the conventional rules of society guided in their endeavours by a serial killer known as The Upright Man...."He's a serial killer. He also abducts people for others to murder for kicks. He has a theory that mankind was infected by a virus tens of thousands of years ago. It made us more sociable, enabled modern society to coalesce by obscuring some or our natural enmity towards our fellow men. We started living closer together, began farming, developed the modern world. They don't like it. They want the planet back the way it was."
Raged against this attempt by a shadowy group to spread fear, confusion and death amongst an unsuspecting populace is an eclectic group of characters; Ward Hopkins ex CIA agent recovering from the shock and death of his parents and their association with The Straw Men; John Zant an ex LA homicide detective with a personal interest in the capture of The Upright Man who he believes was responsible for the death of his only daughter Karen; Nina Baynam discredited FBI agent believing totally in both the existence of The Straw Men and their murderous agenda; Paul Hopkins, brother to Ward and identified as the notorious serial killer The Upright Man.
What is so readable about Blood of Angels is that even the minor characters we meet play an important role in the unfolding drama and they all contribute to the pulsating tension that radiates from page one; James Kyle/Jim Westlake is a killer in retirement in Key West Florida until his services are required by The Straw Men one last time; Lee h
Hudek his friends Grant and Sleepy Pete all wealthy middleclass kids dealing drugs until they encounter The Upright Man, a meeting that will alter their lives irrevocably......there is no going back!
The search is on for Ward's brother The Upright Man who has escaped from a secure institution. Has he been broken out for  a reason? Have The Straw Men got a hidden agenda that will ultimately mean the destruction of society as we know and love. Ward, Nina and John are on the case and in the very capable hands of Michael Marshall we are treated to an extraordinary reading experience. The UK paperback version of this story is some 540 pages but I can honestly say I devoured this story in some 3 reading sessions. It still puzzles me that Michael Marshall, although a popular author, has never received the acclaim and credit he so deserves.....so, dear reader of my review, do yourself a favour and read all 3 books in this well researched, intelligent, dark and above all well written tale. A pleasure to read and a pleasure to recommend 5+++++ stars!
Profile Image for Jonathan Briggs.
176 reviews37 followers
April 16, 2012
Once upon a time, Michael Marshall Smith was a fresh, exciting voice in the genres of the fantastic. He announced his arrival with "Only Forward," an electrifying debut that spiked its science fiction thrills with a dash of Barkerish horror and Pythonesque humor. His follow-up, "Spares," wasn't too shabby either, and he racked up a handful of award-winning short stories.

Then he shaved off the end of his name and took a dive into the lucrative mediocrity of the serial killer novel. His first foray, "The Straw Men," isn't bad actually -- a step up from the standard Dean Koontz drivel. That was followed by "The Upright Man," a sequel of diminishing returns. And "Blood of Angels" makes a trilogy, a conclusion (at least as far as I'm concerned) so haphazardly constructed that I'm surprised the book didn't crumble apart in my hands as I turned the pages.

Marshall's loose coalition of current and former law enforcement officials and conspiracy nuts continues to battle an underground cabal of serial killers that has orchestrated all of human history (coz if there's one thing we all know about the psycho killer it's that he's a team player). At this point, the trilogy's central idea, never that strong to begin with, feels played out, whatever creative juice it had long since dried up. "Blood of Angels" doesn't even qualify as a good junk food read. It feels exhausted and listless, an empty exercise, a thriller sans thrills. A subplot concerning teenage whiteboy suburban drug dealers serves only to further gum up an already logy narrative.

In addition to the lackluster storytelling, there are numerous flubs probably attributable to the author being British and the editor not paying attention: Doritos and Fritos are referred to as "potato" chips. El Lay kids sling London slang. All weapons are labeled generic "guns." Ostensibly professional federal agents carry said "guns" in their pockets instead of securely fastened in a holster where any joker couldn't snatch them away. A character in the back of a cop car casually tosses stuff into the front seat. I could be accused of nitpicking, but it's those kind of little details that contribute to a sense of realism, to the reader's suspension of disbelief, and this book needs all of that it can get.

As "Blood of Angels" meanders along to its weak-kneed whimper of a finish, it continues to pile up typos and lapses in logic. Marshall writes as if he's in a rush to finish and go do something more fun: "I oriented myself in relation to the body by from the direction of curve in the revealed sections of seven ribs." He and his editor obviously weren't much more interested in the project than I was.
Profile Image for Sam Whitehouse.
Author 6 books72 followers
February 18, 2015
Michael Marshall is a great writer. His plots are always unique and unpredictable and complex. This trilogy has turned the serial killer thriller on it's head, and Marshall finishes it on a great note. It could have been better, but it could have been worse. The writing is tight, as is the plot. It gets a little silly at times with the history of the Straw Men, but other than that this is a top-notch crime thriller with plenty of action and some quality writing.
Highly recommended.
23 reviews
August 2, 2009
This is the 3rd (and final?) book in the trilogy that started with "The Straw Men", and while I had high hopes for it after not having liked "The Upright Man", I have to say that I was disappointed.
Yet again the author takes 3 seemingly unconnected storylines and brings them together into a conspiracy theory which, this time, manages to involve, of course, September 11. I'm always leary of any book that contains the stupid theory that September 11 wasn't exactly was it was, and I have to admit that as soon as I read this bit in this book, I totally disconnected from the story(which, by the way, continues to harp on the very ancient non-civilization of The Straw Men and the fact that they might have caused the annihilation of every great civilization in our past history, and that the Church and the Masons, amongst others, are the only organizations standing in their way.)
This book, in my view, would have been much better if it had focused on the story of Jim/John, the crazy old serial killer. Mixing the serial killers and the Straw Men bit is too far-fetched, like 2 types of books rolled into one by incongruous links, even though the Straw Men are serial killers themselves, although on a larger, terrorist scale. Since they've managed to get the more run-of-the-mill serial killers to be their go-getters and their errand (and "delivery") boys, they've created their own society, which is, supposedly, what they're against in the first place. They also all seem to live together in rich enclaves while enslaving the mere "mortals" around them into doing their bidding, whether they realize it or not. This makes no sense whatsoever in the context of the conspiracy being described here.
What is truly horrifying is the internal struggle of Jim/John as he tries to resist the killer impulses in him, as he observes how easy it would be for someone to snatch kids out of their own backyards, supermarket parking lot... how easy it is for parents not to know what is happening in their teens' lives just because they have decided to trust that their kids are good kids and that bad things only happen to someone else. This is the true horror: the banal suddenly becoming horror and the fact that it can befall any of us, at any instant.
471 reviews34 followers
May 13, 2016
I felt this was a strong conclusion to The Straw Men series. After escaping from authorities, The Upright Man is on the loose. Ward Hopkins and his FBI agent girlfriend just want to remain isolated and avoid the problems of the world. Charles Monroe, Nina's boss, pulls Nina back into reality when he wants her to help solve a case where a man is found murdered with his hand cut off and the suspect is a woman. Nina reluctantly decides to return to work and what ensues is more murder and mayhem. Meanwhile, Lee John Hudek is climbing his way up the ladder in the drug trade. He just isn't aware of the plans that the Straw Men's leader has in store for him on his upward journey. Finally, a 60 something year old man enjoys his life as a photographer but is tasked to complete an unthinkable act. He can't refuse though because The Upright Man knows the secrets of his past.

Marshall once again manages to take 3 distinct story lines and merge them into one very readable novel. I noticed many reviewers grew tired of the series by the final installment. I liked it however. I thought the plot was solid and the character development was even better than in the prior 2 books. To be fair though, yes, this book is laced with conspiracy theories but I thought they were a unique spin on reality.
11 reviews
July 16, 2012
the only stupid to read this one before reading the other in straw man series .... so couldn't connect to characters.. still very nicely written.. exciting. ..!
Profile Image for Duncan.
110 reviews
October 2, 2014
This is the third book in the Straw Men series and whilst not as good as the first, I found it better than the middle on 'The Lonely Dead'.
Like the middle book this has some sections where two characters 'in the know' riff on about conspiracy theories and crazy ideas, leaving both the reader and in fact the main character not much the wiser, but much shorter in this book and not so fantastical. In fact the new story line of LA teenage small time drug dealers, showing how Straw man 'recruitment' takes place, did for me clear up a lot of the crazier conspiracy part of book 1, ie how Paul seemingly managed to be present at all known atrocities in America. As a side note it's clear that this is written by a British author. I can't quite imagine a US author taking such a bleak look at the history of American serial killers and random killings.
If you like you serial killer stories violent with a heap of conspiracy theory, then this series of three is clearly for you.
January 12, 2019
Read this as an interlude to the science book I am plowing through. Years ago I read The Straw Men, which was tremendously horrifying and well done. The second in the series (Lonely Dead) was ok, and this was a little better than that, but not as strong as the Straw Men.

I like the wacky worldwide conspiracy side of this series, and that makes a re-appearance here. The notion that beneath suburban normality lurks a group of people completely outside of 'normal' societal norms is interesting.
This is well plotted and the settings are intriguing. Gets a bit far-fetched at the end but if you read the Straw Men, then you need to finish the trilogy, in my view.
Profile Image for Joy.
1,645 reviews25 followers
June 14, 2019
When you bring to the plot an ancient, deeply hidden conspiracy by a group of humans believing they're the master race, who want what they see as toxic civilization to fail; well, that's hard to wrap up in a tidy conclusion. That they have tons of money and influence to feed their psychopathic desires to kill and torture also makes them unstoppable.

"We cower in the centre of a circle of spite, not knowing which way to turn. Killers of all denominations and faiths and eras stand around the edges of our world, firing inwards. They see only the people on the opposite side of the circle, their chosen foes, the demonized others." - Michael Marshall
Profile Image for John.
28 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2007
Marshall's conclusion to the Staw Men is interesting and complex like to its two predeccesors, but its not as compelling as either. Marshall does a masterful job of continuing to weave the past and present histories of all the key players. He demands that you care for the welfare of one of the key charactures. That is the only part of the book that kept my interest. I didn't find the Straw Men's conspiratory narritive to be as stiring as it was in the previous two novels.

Profile Image for Adam Light.
Author 21 books255 followers
November 24, 2012
This was the final book in the Straw Men trilogy, and for me it was very good, but nowhere near as awesome as the first two. In fact, I found it rather anticlimactic. Overall, the series was impressive.
179 reviews
June 1, 2020
A must read

An amazing trilogy really enjoyed these books great characters mind blowing ideas fast paced will keep you on the edge of your seat shame this is the last book would have loved to read more of these books would make great films
Profile Image for Kelly Bradley.
257 reviews7 followers
October 21, 2013
4.5 stars. Not as good as book 1, but better than book 2. I am really hoping that another Straw Men book ends up being written, because this series deserves to be much more than a trilogy!
Profile Image for Сибин Майналовски.
Author 69 books143 followers
July 8, 2019
Еле выдержал до 35% и бросил. Просто невозможно читать. Скукота невообразимая.
Profile Image for Robyn Jones.
68 reviews
August 21, 2021
The last book was slightly harder to follow then the first two, but I still enjoyed the premise of Marshall's conspiracy theory. It was an interesting concept that I have not heard before. I still found the series was depressing and a depressing view of human nature. The story kept me engaged until the end, and I did enjoy the ending. Nothing was really resolved, but at least two of the characters had a somewhat happy ending.
Profile Image for Tim Julian.
415 reviews2 followers
August 25, 2019
Third and final book in his Straw Men trilogy and just as he did in the second book  Marshall introduces a new set of characters and interweaves their stories with those of Ward, Nina, and Zandt in their efforts to catch the bad guy and find some kind of solution to the centuries-old mystery of the Straw Men.
I enjoyed the exploits of rich-kid stoners Lee, Brad and Sleepy Pete, and though it was clear from the get-go that they were heading for a fall, the particular nature of their come-uppance was still pretty shocking. The James/Jim thread didn't seem to be going anywhere for ages, until it suddenly did.
It seems like every book I read these days puts me in mind of Stephen King (OK, not Eleanor Oliphant ;). Something in the narrative voice, the understanding of what its like to be a teenager (or older for that matter), the little insights that never seem forced but arise out of the situation. It's hard to talk about the third book in a series without spoilers so I'll just say the whole thing is well worth your time imo.
18 reviews
September 12, 2018
I loved each book in the set

The Straw Men set of books from the first page of book one to last page of book three.

In fact as it was so long since I read the first two I went back and reread them to reacquaint myself with what had happened. I read all three in sequence, and for me this is not the normal way, I usually like a book in-between. However the pull of the character's and the story hook you and you want to know what happens to each main actor.

My only regret is I did not read the last book sooner, but by reading the sequence you get a better sense of time so for me it was worth rereading.

If you've not read any of the set your in for a treat, if you've read the other two you will not be disappointed.

I'm looking forward to more by MM and I hope they are as good as this set.
Profile Image for Daniel.
180 reviews6 followers
May 5, 2020
The good new is: "Blood of Angels" is the best book in the Straw Men trilogy. The bad news is: It's not a lot better than the first two. I was really hoping it would save face. The main idea of the trilogy was interesting enough for me to want to keep reading, but overall, I feel a little cheated. There's a lot of great action and the last third is mostly brilliantly suspenseful. The problem is that almost nothing resonates. The final occurrences in the book are of epic proportions, as one might expect from the final act of a trilogy, they're memorable, but as a whole nothing here compensates for the mediocrity.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Chad.
602 reviews5 followers
August 5, 2017
Michael Marshall Smith​​ really did a job with this trilogy. I'm a little late to the party but I'm defintely glad I got here. Straw Men is still my favorite of the three but all are entertaining and have enough depth to be friendly for repeat reads. Great, complex characters and plots that really drive forward. The books drift back and forth between relatively mild content and gruesomely dark moments that will grab your attention. And I thought as a finale, this felt satisfying while also leaving just the tiniest possibility of more to come. I definitely need to read more of his work.
Profile Image for Sharlene Almond.
Author 3 books34 followers
November 24, 2018
A riveting read. You have a great psychological thriller, interwoven with a complex conspiracy theory. The array of characters all have an important part to play in the plot. The author goes in-depth into the psychology of the main characters, so you get a great sense of how their character's progress throughout the novel.

Ideally, reading his previous novels to get a good sense of what is going (as this is a series).

I highly recommend, as it kept me guessing until the end. The ending was not what I expected, and was left open perhaps to another in the series.
Profile Image for Tanvir Muntasim.
963 reviews22 followers
May 27, 2013
Slightly fizzled out conclusion to the trilogy, which peaked at the 2nd book and went downhill from there. Even then, the premise of a group of serial killers active for millennium is a novel one, and this apparently ludicrous premise is valiantly built on by Marshall's gift for creating genuinely creepy ambience inhabited by some seriously scary characters.
Profile Image for Alix.
45 reviews9 followers
March 10, 2016
Finally got around to reading this last volume of the Straw Men trilogy. I remember loving the first book, but it should have stopped there. Both the following were weak. Sure, this was a page-turner, too, and well-enough written for the most part. But the main plot, oh, what a stretch. After three volumes, even the most fun conspiracy theories lose their luster.
Profile Image for Colette Willis.
91 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2018
I like my horror or thriller to have a vast, far-reaching ideology behind it, and the Straw Men books certainly deliver on that, with a shadowy conspiracy extending back thousands of years. This is nicely drip-fed throughout the pacy narrative, with character always to the forefront. By this stage the main players feel like old friends. Another fast, enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Sudhakar.
28 reviews
May 28, 2020
It's a pretty thrilling book. I had not read the first two, I didn't realise it was a sequel, but it does recap a little throughout so you could get a rough idea of what happened before. It's great how it skips here and there from first person to third person narratives then brings it all together. It did go on a bit but it was an easy read.
Profile Image for Kas Keenan.
8 reviews3 followers
September 10, 2018
The Straw Men Trilogy finale... impressive, unsettling because the fiction is so believable!
Profile Image for Shawn Davies.
76 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2022
I have completed the trilogy now, all the way from the big shoot out in the compound in the Rockies from Straw Men, through the weird detour into Big Foot territory of The Lonely Dead to our finale, a random bloodletting in a random town in the northeast in Blood of Angels.

Have to say, considering we are dealing with a shadowy Death Cult of killers who have been around for thousands of years, there just wasn’t enough death. I wanted more mayhem!

All three books were well written though, the characters engaging, certainly the acerbic and often funny hero Ward Hopkins, and it was a good idea. Secret organisation of Killers living in America and carrying out random acts of violence to demonstrate their hatred and rejection of civilization.

Make America Great Again, make America red in tooth and claw!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
51 reviews
May 12, 2017
Didn't capture me at the beginning like other books. Felt it dragged at the start. A lot of stuff seemed meaningless even when I went back to read them. I am not sure if I missed some symbolism or what. The kid dying in a broom closet. I am not sure what the heck that was suppose to mean. That he was so unimportant that he should have a death of no importance. I don't really feel any like or dislike towards the kid, just extreme what the heck? His role was to be used? Out of all the narratives in the book we spend a lot of time with him and his is the one where I thought he was going to be a major player. Instead we know that the media will blame him and not the upright man. That's it, his whole purpose. Why not just blame the Paul? Just seemed mehhhhhh...too loose ended.
131 reviews
December 23, 2021
3.5 arrondi à 3. Comme dans les autres livres de la trilogie… too many loose ends … je ne les mentionnes pas pour pas brûler l’histoire mais ça été un irritant dès le premier livre. Ceci dit et malgré tout, l’auteur excelle pour nous tenir en haleine et le fil de l’histoire est pas mal soigné, mais l’histoire elle même est chambranlante, boiteuse voir farfelue. Il y juste trop de trous mais ça reste entertaining.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews

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