Acclaimed New Zealand author Ben Sanders makes his U.S. debut with American Blood, a stylish, action-packed thriller that blends the signature elements of Elmore Leonard and Lee Child, and introduces readers to a protagonist daring to take up Jack Reacher’s mantle as the genre’s premier butt-kicker. With film rights sold to Warner Bros, and Bradley Cooper attached to play Marshall Grade, few novels have been as hyped up pre-release as American Blood.
Marshall Grade is a former NYPD detective who worked undercover trying to dismantle a particularly vicious crime syndicate until his cover was blown, and he was forced into Witness Protection. Now living under the radar in Albuquerque, Marshall lives under the radar, going as far as to sublet his WITSEC safe-house to a lower-tier criminal in order to circumvent any possible paper trail. Not that his hander, marshal Lucas Cohen, seems to mind Marshall’s exploits, so long as his charge stays out of the limelight and out of trouble. But trouble has a way of finding Marshall – or rather, he has a way of finding it – because when he leans of the disappearance of Alyce Ray, a woman he doesn’t know, but who who reminds him of someone from his past, Marshall makes it his mission to find her. In doing so, he antagonizes a local group of thugs who are perhaps more capable than he anticipated. Even worse, they’re not the only ones gunning for him: Marshall’s past comes back to haunt him in the shape of the cold and twisted professional killer known as the Dallas Man.
American Blood combines a brisk plot, impactful action scenes, and great dialogue. Once its plot has built up its momentum, it’s unstoppable – a real page-turner. Before that, readers will need to justify Marshall’s motives in their own minds, because the reasons Sanders provides are paper-thin. The story revolves around the disappearance of Alyce Ray – but this is a woman who means nothing to Marshall besides reminding him of a woman from his past. There is no real personal connection; and while Jack Reacher has frequently gotten involved in the search for people’s he’s never met, his reasons for doing so have always felt more justifiable than what’s offered here. It’s a slight blotch on otherwise gritty, fast-moving thriller, and a successful launch of a new series character.
Chapter-by-chapter Ben Sanders shifts between various character perspectives, always propelling the narrative forward, stamping forks and roadblocks in their paths. American Blood is the kind of thriller easily devoured in a single sitting, and its delicious final chapter twist will leave readers desperate for its sequel. It’s not necessarily a gasp-worthy moment – in fact, I foresaw it – but it means American Blood will leave its hooks in you, which is what every first novel in a series should accomplish.
THANKS TO ALLEN & UNWIN FOR PROVIDING A REVIEW COPY
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 1-Jan-2016
Country of Publication: Australia