Sanders, Ben. 2015. American Blood. New York, NY: Minotaur Books, a division of MacMillan. ISBN 978-1250058799. $24.99 USD
I was intrigued by the premise of this thriller, about a former New York undercover cop in the witness protection program living in New Mexico and hiding from the mob. Warner Bros. has optioned the film rights, with Bradley Cooper tapped to produce and star in the lead role. When I took a look at the author’s bio, I was amazed to learn that this native New Zealander had his first book published when he was 20 years old, and still an engineering student at the University of Auckland. American Blood is the first book set in the United States; his previous three-book series is set in New Zealand and they were all national best sellers. I am amazed at the talent that a single person can possess!
Marshall Grade is living in relative anonymity in Santa Fe, New Mexico, after an undercover job gone wrong forces him into the witness protection program. He has some seriously bad guys after him, including an assassin named “The Dallas Man.” He subleases his house to a clueless tenant in order to stay even further off the grid, and is hiding from the federal marshal in charge of his case, whom he doesn’t really trust. He doesn’t really trust anyone.
One evening he sees a news story about a missing young woman who reminds him of someone from his past that he apparently could not save, so he decides to save this unknown woman instead. And….it’s off to the races!
Marshall uses his skills honed as an undercover cop and his survival instincts to track down information on the missing woman. He encounters a female detective recovering from a personal tragedy, and together they proceed to outwit the kidnappers in order to rescue the girl. Marshall is a bit of an anti-hero, as we learn he did some pretty nasty things during his undercover work, and most of the villains in this book are really, really, bad. I had to skim over some of the more gruesome scenes. But I commend the author for creating a compulsive page-turner (he was under 25 when he wrote this, folks)! He can definitely hold his own against other more mature and prolific writers out there.
This one’s not for the faint of heart, but the main characters are so well-drawn, with fully-realized back stories, that you can’t help but root for them, despite some not-quite-legal actions they take to save the missing woman. Ultimately, Marshall realizes that his actions can’t replace what he’s lost, but salvation can be found in all sorts of places.