A front cover endorsement recommending this to fans of Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne piqued my interest, and a review from Carol at Reading, Writing and Riesling piqued it further. I do enjoy reading thrillers, so these two things made sure I put Ben Sanders’ debut American Blood on my reading list. Was it a good move? Absolutely. Here’s the blurb:
A former undercover cop now in witness protection finds himself pulled into the search for a missing woman. An explosive, unputdownable work of suspense from a fresh voice in crime fiction.
After a botched undercover operation, ex-NYPD officer Marshall Grade is living in witness protection in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Marshall’s instructions are to keep a low profile: the mob wants him dead, and a contract killer known as the Dallas Man has been hired to track him down. Racked with guilt over wrongs committed during his undercover work, and seeking atonement, Marshall investigates the disappearance of a local woman named Alyce Ray.
Members of a drug ring seem to hold clues to Ray’s whereabouts, but hunting traffickers is no quiet task. Word of Marshall’s efforts spreads, and soon the worst elements of his former life, including the Dallas Man, are coming for him.
Written by a rising New Zealand star who has been described as ‘first rate’, this American debut drops a Jack Reacher-like hero into the landscape of No Country for Old Men. With film rights sold to Warner Bros, and Bradley Cooper attached to play tortured hero Marshall Grade, American Blood is sure to follow in their award-winning, blockbuster success.
It took me a few chapters to feel the rhythm of this book, to get my head around the different characters, but underneath I was slowly being hooked and reeled in. And once I was in … it was hard to put this book down. In Marshall Grade, author Ben Sanders has introduced a terrific, tough character with believable motives. Yes, there are similarities with Jack Reacher, but the difference is that Grade is more concerned about righting wrongs, whereas Lee Child’s Reacher just doesn’t like people who “put the world to wrongs”. The action is cinematic, again similar to Child’s Reacher series, but there’s less focus on how tall, wide and strong Grade is. Basically, it’s not rubbed in your face how tough Grade is; he has the goods but there’s a nonchalance about it that I liked.
The entire novel has great cinematic appeal so I can see why movie rights have been snapped up; I don’t expect this one to languish on studio shelves for long. The action is fast-paced, gutsy and edgy, all of which add up to deliver a top-notch thriller. Sanders’ writing is tight, with moments of wordy cleverness that added delight to my reading, such as “For an instant the light made art of the scene. This tall backlit figure, a gun in each hand” (p7) and “almost a whisper, let you know there was menace lurking behind the velvet” (p74).
Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television