"American Blood" (Minotaur), by Ben Sanders
Ben Sanders' "American Blood" is an intense, action-packed crime novel that smoothly unspools the background of its enigmatic lead character.
To call Marshall Grade the hero of the story is a bit of a stretch — he's quick to succumb to his violent tendencies honed from his years as a cop in deep undercover. As a NYPD detective, Marshall infiltrated the inner circle of a Brooklyn narcotics crime syndicate a bit too deeply and his identity was discovered by the maniacal crime boss. In trying to expose criminals, Marshall often became a criminal himself.
Now under a witness-protection program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Marshall goes even deeper, skirting rules and living off the grid, only occasionally contacting his WITSEC handler. Marshall's anonymity is blown when he comes up against two brutal criminals because he's trying to find Alyce Ray, a young woman who's missing. The trail takes Marshall into the heart of New Mexico and pits him against some of the area's most brutal criminals. The desert becomes an arid metaphor for the thugs' soullessness.
Marshall's reasons for trying to find Alyce seem thin — she reminds him of someone he knew. But putting aside that reservation, Sanders keeps a clear-eyed approach to plot and character. "American Blood" briskly moves with an unflinching, but not gratuitous, approach to violence.
Marshall is cut from the same cloth at Jack Reacher, but he falls just short of emulating that now iconic character. Still, Marshall's penchant for redemption for his sins when he was undercover elevates "American Blood."