New Zealand thriller author Ben Sanders has specialised in the Lee Child style of American thriller since his debut American Blood and its follow up Marshall’s Law. The Devils You Know opens with Vincent, a similar character type to Marshall Grade, the protagonist in those earlier books. Vincent is looking for a job as a bodyguard but one who does not hive to use guns. The job he gets is to drive and protect Eugene Lamar, the wealthy owner of a chain of successful supermarkets. When his induction tour includes a gun safe full of illegal weaponry and a panic room, Vincent realises there may be more than just supermarket goods in play.
To say any more about the plot would be to give away some of its secrets. But suffice to say that Vincent becomes interested in Lamar’s daughter Erin, who is on the media circuit promoting a book about why the Iraq War was justified, and tries to quit before being pulled back in and having to take on a range of bad guys. Chief among these is the psychopathic Cuban Andre, a man who seemingly cannot walk away from a confrontation without killing someone even if that would make him more wanted as a criminal than he already is.
This is fairly standard thriller fare which for the most part feels more procedural than thriller. Vincent and Erin end up as an investigative team, cutting the police out and relying on Vincent’s old comrade Beauden Ash, who fills the team’s armourer/information gathering role. The only problem is that none of the set up really makes too much sense, unless readers buy the idea that drug dealers would kill all of the people who either owe them lots of money or might know the whereabouts of a missing consignment and then just hope to extort the location of the consignment or the money from the survivors. But I guess no one says at any point that the bad guys here are particularly clever. While there is plenty of slow build up as Andre closes in the thrills, such as they are, take a long time to arrive.
Vincent himself is a post-Tarantino hero. Ex special forces, dislikes guns but is quite handy with them when he needs to be, but also with his fists and a bunch of other weapons. Vincent, was part of the system and has done his fair share of state-sanctioned killing, so he has deep opinions about the role of America in foreign wars, opinions that he gets to debate with Erin. But he is also cultured and reads the likes of Martin Amis and Don DeLillo.
The Devils You Know sits squarely in the American lone-hero thriller tradition. It is a tradition that Sanders understands well and deploys effectively. In fact, the title could well be referring to the readers and their knowledge of the types of characters that populate this type of thriller. So those fans of this style and these tropes will not be disappointed if they feel like diving in and spending a few hours with Vincent and his troubles.