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by Ben Sanders
Minotaur, November 2015
352 pages
ISBN: 1250058791

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Taking up the the mantle of hard-boiled, gun obsessed, blood soaked American lone wolf characters, New Zealand author Ben Sanders has created his second book to fit into that world like a clenched fist in a black, leather glove.

It's no surprise that the blurb compares Sanders' protagonist Marshall Grade to Jack Reacher, as it seems they share a lot of similarities. Quick to unleash cold clinical revenge, a one man getting-even band, snappy with a gun or his fists, Grade is a violent man living in the grey edges of right and wrong. The setting comes straight from the lone wolf playbook as well with much of the action taking place in the cheap motels, diners and dives of sun-baked New Mexico as Grade takes it upon himself to search for a missing girl. There's no particular reason for that, other than wrongs need to be righted.

Fans of this type of book are unlikely to notice any blips in the styling. Right from the moment Grade comes across the second main character - detective Lauren Shore, in a bar, being hassled by somebody, needing rescuing with extreme violence - the pattern is set. Most of the expected requirements are met in AMERICAN BLOOD, although they nearly all come with a slight twist. Marshall Grade is in witness protection, which gives us his FBI contact who is part friend, part manager of Marshall's new persona and his vigilante activities. There's a hitman on Marshall's trail, the mysterious Dallas Man, an unemotional and cold killer, except when on the phone to his daughter. There seems to be more than coincidence in the way that both these men conduct their private lives over the phone, although it's hard to tell if the author is attempting to portray pressure and deprivation or simply inserting some dimension into the supporting cast.

As you'd expect from a lone wolf vigilante with violence always just under the surface, the plot in AMERICAN BLOOD isn't intricate and the twists and turns aren't delivering much in the way of surprise. On the other hand the dialogue is wry and the action fast paced, with a sense of tension. Particularly for those readers who are of a mind to like the idea that anything and everything can be solved if you hit it hard enough or shoot it quick enough. It looks like from the way things are phrased that this might be the beginning of a new series, so if you're a reader with a penchant for a high bullet/ blood/gore count and you're looking to see how a series like this gets off the ground, points to Ben Sanders for coming up with something that fits so neatly into that aforementioned glove.

Karen Chisholm has been reading crime fiction since she could hold a book upright. When not reading she builds websites and pretends to be a farmer. Her website, AustCrimeFiction has been covering fiction from Australia and New Zealand since 2006: http://www.austcrimefiction.org/

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm, December 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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