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Book Review: Charlie Five by Zoë Sharp

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If you aren’t familiar with English author Zoë Sharp, the author of Fox Five: A Charlie Fox Short Story Collection, well, get out of the house more often because she is becoming a household name in the thriller realm. Since the publication in 2001 of the first Charlie Fox book, Killer Instinct, in England she has made steadily bigger and bigger waves. With the ninth book in the Charlie Fox series about to hit the shelves in January 2012, she is poised to join the British invasion along with countryman Lee Child.

The heroine of Ms. Sharp’s books, Charlotte “Charlie” Fox is a different type of protagonist. In the first book, Charlie is a self-defense instructor who, under shady circumstance, has washed out of the British Special Forces. As the series progresses, Charlie goes under cover to a bodyguard training school in Germany where she finds her calling in “close protection.” The first time Charlie “crosses the pond” is in First Drop, confusingly, the fourth book. Charlie eventually grows into a competent, veteran expert bodyguard. Also, she becomes a more complex character as the series continues, maintaining an ongoing relationship with the man she feels was at least partially responsible for her leaving the Special Forces under “other than honorable” conditions. She also develops an empathy with her charges and is more than capable of killing, but only as a last resort.

Fox Five is a great introduction to this smart, sassy, at times ill-tempered and borderline psychotic, tough and self-sufficient character. The first story, “A Bridge Too Far,” is set before Charlie becomes a pro bodyguard. She is hanging out with some friends who are into extreme sports when one of them dies under what becomes mysterious circumstances. Charlie exhibits some of the traits in solving the mystery which will make her one of the best close protection experts later in the series.

Next up is “Postcards From Another Country,” which finds Charlie bodyguarding a wealthy family when there is an attempt on her principle’s life that is orchestrated from an unexpected direction. The story demonstrates Charlie’s professionalism and loyalty to her employer. The third story was a finalist for the Crime Writers Association Story Dagger. “Served Cold” is the only story not told from Chalie’s point of view. It finds a waitress and stripper named Layla who has lived life on the seamy side and come out of it the worse for wear. A marvelous story that will make you think twice at the greasy spoon or shady bar before you give that waitress with the Maxwell House eyes a hard time.

The fourth story in your introduction to Charlie Fox is called “Off Duty,” which finds Charlie recuperating from a shooting at a resort in the Catskill Mountains where she encounters a rude, lounge lizard kind of guy and a staff member, neither of who are quite what they seem. By now, Charlie is a thorough professional, but can’t let a one sided fight alone, even though she is off duty.

The last story in this anthology is seen in print for the first time here. It is the longest, and most detailed in the bunch. Charlie has been sent into an unnamed country as part of a team to extricate a news crew that has stayed a little too long in-country to report on a revolution. Charlie is the only member of the rescue crew to make it past the authorities, and she decides to go through with the mission. Along the way she must decide who to trust and who to shoot, and she must use her wits and her expertise at violence to accomplish the mission — all the while questioning the morality of her victims as well as her employers.

This is an excellent introduction to a great female thriller protagonist. Charlie has been turning heads in Europe for a while, and now she is ready to invade America. And you’ll like it — or get out of her way. This is well written crime-thriller fiction and will soon be ruling the best seller lists.

Zoë Sharp was born in Nottinghamshire but grew up on a boat on the northwest coast of England. She has worked on a yacht delivery crew, an equestrian instructor, a pension and mortgage adviser, in news paper advertising sales. In 1988 she submitted an article to a car magazine and, having a love of cars, turned her hand to auto sport photography and article writer.

Eventually she drifted into thriller writing with the Charlie Fox novels, and crime and thriller fans have been happy ever since.

Look for Fifth Victim (US Edition) in January, and in the meantime, you can find the other Charlie Fox novels in eBook format at all the usual places.

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I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy and washed cars. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown. And another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Tecnorati/BlogCritics where i am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.