Friday, January 11, 2008

Zoë Sharp, Second Shot: Charlie Fox Thriller

[US cover]
Zoë Sharp isn't a new writer -- SECOND SHOT is her seventh book, and the second thriller featuring Charlie Fox, whose torpedoed career in the British Special Forces has dumped her into the personal protection field. Yep, bodyguard. And as a trim, slim woman with a pretty face and nice hair, her first issue is convincing clients she's really up to the job.

But in SECOND SHOT, Fox also faces a challenge to her career from her boss and lover, Sean, who's boosting her back up onto the figurative horse she's fallen from, daring her to prove she won't hold back when client protection requires her to be violent. Not only does Fox have a client from hell in new lottery winner Simone Kerse, but her long denied maternal instincts zap her emotions: Simone is a lightning rod for violence and cons, and Simone's darling four-year-old daughter is similarly attracting Charlie Fox's protective urges.

Don't let the maternal flag lure you into thinking this is a soft feminine version of Lee Child's Jack Reacher. (Child has put his praise on the front cover of Sharp's book.) Charlie Fox may hesitate to kill someone when the toddler's watching. But nobody around her is holding back. The tightly plotted story eventually reveals the very nasty moral, ethical, and self-stunning choice that Fox will face in terms of how she responds to attacks and risk. Set in winter and mostly in snowy, mountainous North Conway, New Hampshire, the book is flawlessly executed in terms of plot, dialogue, and crises. And if it's sometimes hard to fully identify with the defeats Fox is enduring, that's actually an echo of the character's own reluctance to admit she's caught in something she can't accept.

SECOND SHOT came out in US and British versions, and as often happens, the British cover is more disturbing -- the US one won't draw you to the book. So ignore the art and go for the interior. The predecessor in the series, FIRST DROP, was a Barry Award finalist; the sequel, THIRD STRIKE, is headed for release in summer 2008. There's still time to gather up signed copies of first editions of this series, before they inevitably escalate in value. You can't keep a good book down.
[UK cover]

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