Greg Fleming reviews the latest batch of crime fiction

American Blood
By Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin) ($32.99)

Sander's first three novels were set in his hometown Auckland (Only the Dead's opening gun battle takes place around the corner from my home in Swanson). At the behest of his new publisher American Blood shifts locale to the States and he's hit pay dirt with this gritty thriller. Movie rights have been snapped up and some guy called Bradley Cooper's attached to star and produce. Not bad for a 25 year old civil engineering student!

From PTSD suffering cops, cold-blooded assassins, disillusioned army rats (often one and the same) to American Blood's righteous hero Marshall Grade - an ex-cop in witness protection - Sander's characters are compelling and deftly drawn. The Auckland Trilogy proved he's a good crime writer, American Blood suggests he might just be a great one. It's all here - superb dialogue, taut, clipped descriptions, and the kind of cinematic action scenes Michael Mann would approve of. The locales of New York and New Mexico are pitch-perfect and, while the reason for Marshall's resurfacing doesn't entirely convince, American Blood cements the arrival of a major crime writing talent. This one deserves to rub dust-jackets with Sander's heroes - Crais, Connelly and Ellroy. Expect to hear a lot more from Sanders - and Marshall - the ending all but guarantees a sequel.

Orphan X
By Greg Hurwitz (Penguin Random House) ($37.00)


Bradley Cooper's going to be a busy action-hero. Orphan X is another thriller the star's set to feature in.

And you can see the appeal. Hurwitz's 15th novel proceeds with action movie panache - the Bourne movies and the tv series Person of Interest - are obvious antecedents. No surprise that Hurwitz has a lucrative side-career as a Hollywood screen writer. If its concept is well-worn - troubled kid raised and trained as an off-the-books assassin - Orphan X is smartly written and fun. Its weakness? Too often it reads as if written with a film adaptation in mind, which makes commercial, if not always artistic, sense.

Make Me
By Lee Child (Bantam Press) $38.00

Make Me, Child's 20th Reacher novel in as many years begins with our hero arriving at a small-middle-of-nowhere-town Mother's Rest, for no other reason than he found the name intriguing. Of course other kinds of intrigue are afoot which Reacher -- along with ex-FBI agent turned PI - and later love interest - Michelle Chang - soon discover and set about righting.

The first two hundred pages fly by but my interest waned in the second half - ironically just as the real action began. Reacher fans won't be disappointed, Child's remote mid-western setting throbs with medieval menace. Child even allows Reacher a more than cursory romantic interlude and some flash hotels to enjoy them in. Others may prefer the recent book by Andy Martin Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child And the Making of Make Me written as Martin sat behind Child in his New York apartment and observed as he wrote.

The Crossing
By Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin) ($36.99)

Also turning in his 20th book is crime-writer legend Michael Connelly. I'm not the first to observe that Connelly's plots move with the precision of a fine Swiss watch, and an Audemars Piguet becomes key to the case (an ex gangbanger accused of murdering a cop's wife) in The Crossing. The difference this time out - Bosch is without a badge and working on the "dark side" (as a defence investigator) for half-brother, lawyer Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey played him in the 2011 adaptation The Lincoln Lawyer a fact the fictional Haller isn't past mentioning). Bosch might be getting on in years but his belief that "everybody counts or nobody counts" pulls him out of a forced retirement and plunges him back into the dark side of LA.
Corruption and shame - mostly the latter - keep the plot ticking. There's also jazz, (Wynton Marsalis' The Majesty of the Blues plays a key role in a gripping climax), Harleys (Bosch is restoring one - a coping-with-retirement thing) and some lovely passages which touch on Bosch and his teenage daughters unsteady relationship. It's first-rate Connelly - so clear the day - you won't want to put this down.

Greg Fleming is an Auckland-based writer and musician. You can follow him on twitter here