New Zealand author Ben Sanders (Only the Dead) makes his bow stateside with a high-speed thriller that will appeal to fans of Lee Child and C.J. Box.
Marshall Grade oversteps his bounds when he starts to investigate the disappearance of a young woman in Albuquerque, N.Mex. Once an NYPD officer, Marshall cannot reconcile himself to keeping his head down, an essential part of life in the federal witness protection program. Thanks to an undercover operation gone awry a few years ago, the mob wants Marshall in a body bag. If the hired killer known only as the Dallas Man finds him, Marshall knows his erasure will be swift and efficient. Still, the missing woman looks enough like someone he once knew to draw Marshall out, hoping that helping her will give him respite from his guilt over the mistakes that landed him in witness protection. Unfortunately, his investigation pits him against drug traffickers, and the shockwaves not only trigger the attention of sympathetic narcotics agent Lauren Shore but also that of the Dallas Man, who begins an inexorable journey to find Marshall and kill him.
Eschewing any words unnecessary to the pell-mell advancement of the plot, Sanders's tense voice lends a gritty heft to the time-honored story of a man blessed with what Bryan Mills (Taken) would call "a very particular set of skills." Handy with a weapon and possessing a quick mind, Marshall matches wits with thug after thug. While finding the missing woman remains his priority, the pertinent question becomes whether or not Marshall will meet someone more dangerous than himself first.
As the title American Blood suggests, copious pints are shed in varied and gruesome fashions. Knives, hand-to-hand combat and the requisite array of firearms come into gory play as the bad guys do their dirty deeds and Marshall blasts a path through them. Although the pacing leaves no time for navel gazing, character development is not lost in the shuffle. The Dallas Man in particular intrigues: a hitman extraordinaire who dispatches targets with cold precision, yet calls his young daughter every time he needs distance from the reality of his life. Whether following the seedy exploits of meth dealers or the frustrated efforts of the agent assigned to keep Marshall safe, Sanders keeps forward momentum at maximum velocity, and manages to slip in a few nifty plot twists at the last second, including a terrific hook that sets up a sequel. Regardless of whether the announced motion picture starring Bradley Cooper makes it to production, American Blood is a thrill ride more than worth the admission. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Shelf Talker: This rapid-fire crime thriller from a New Zealander was optioned by Warner Bros. while still in the proposal stage.