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on 3 December 2011
My Dad said 'Have you read any of these Charlie Fox novels, then? Female Reacher, you know.' Well, you got to give it a go with that sort of recommendation. Thankfully Charlie is not a female Reacher, she's much more interesting and human. All too often the heroes of this sort of fiction have an unlikely reserve of knowledge and skill that makes them virtually unbeatable. Rather cleverly Miss Sharp has created a character with useful skills but also an element of vulnerability - when the conflicts arise you can never be too sure that Charlie will prevail.

I'm not sure the plot is particularly revelatory - all the basics of the thriller skeleton are there - but it's interesting to see this kind of novel set in a provincial location; the lack of exotic location makes it a little more real and intimate. So we have an interesting central character, a different location and a plot that's good enough to keep you interested. What's not to like?

Now looking forward to the next in the series. This could develop into a must-read series a la Reacher but with a human side added.
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Being somebody that buys more than I read, I have that nagging feeling that I am missing out when people get excited over authors I have never read. Yes I know, I have issues; don't get me started! When I saw on my lovely Facebook page that people were excitedly chattering about Zoe Sharp I immediately Googled her and realised that she has been writing for the best part of ten years. How dare I not know about this crime author, especially being a British female author? I immediately ordered her first release in the series featuring Charlie Fox and eventually got around to it.

Charlie Fox is an ordinary sort of woman and within the first few chapters I decided that I liked her very much. Charlie teaches women self-defence, prefers to dress in jeans and had a passion for riding motorbikes. Charlie was kicked out of the army for reasons unknown to the reader early on and although she is certainly not without issues I loved her no-nonsense attitude. When Charlie is offered a job working for the security at the New Adelphi club she has no idea that a few hours after her tussle with Susie Hollins in the club, that she would be found dead a few hours later.

This is the catalyst for a string of events that put Charlie's life on the line. There are many authors and books out there in this genre and although this wasn't necessarily one that stood out by a mile, it certainly whets my appetite for Charlie and her life. The characters are easy to read and the plot twisted enough to hold your interest well into the early hours. I realised at around the halfway mark that were many more layers to the story than I originally thought.

I realised pretty early on that this would be a series I would stick with. After a slower paced beginning, the second half flew by and I found myself racing to find out who is involved and to what degree. By the end of the book I made sure I went online and got part 2. It may well take me a while to get to but I will certainly be looking forward to it. Now I know why people were talking about Zoe Sharp and I will be among them next time, although as ever I like to read a series in order and it may take me a while to catch up. Overall, I am dead chuffed that I can now add another female British crime writer to my list of must reads. Fantastic start to a series (and what planet have I been on having only just started reading ZS???!). Recommended!
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on 25 March 2012
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did, and it was set in Britain for a change, what a great book.I loved the main character, and there were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing, I stayed up way too late reading as its such a fast pace its hard to stop.I'm so pleased to see that there are plenty more books in this series to read, I can't wait, I love discovering a new writer and a main character that I instantly connect with, its what reading is all about.I love it!
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on 15 January 2003
If you like US female PIs (VI Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone) then you'll like Charlie Fox.
Charlie is tough. She teaches women's self-defence (which she took up after being raped in the army), rides a motorbike and is very independent.
The book starts with Charlie's friend Clare being attacked during karaoke night at a local nightclub by reigning champion Susie Hollins. Charlie deals with the attack and is offered a job as a bouncer by the clubs owner. Hours later Susie Hollins is found dead – the latest victim of a homicidal rapist that has been terrorising the local community. Charlie suspects a link between the nightclub and the homicidal rapist and she begins to investigate.
The book moves along at a cracking pace and Charlie is a believable tough heroine. The identity of the killer may be obvious in a plot that has been used many times before, but Charlie is interesting enough to carry you through.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2005
This is a great book that starts a superb series. All the Charlie Fox books are fabulous and there are story arcs that sevelop between books meaning they need to be read in the right order. This is the first, followed by Riot Act.
Charlie is a very strong and independent woman.She is ex army special forces. she teaches self defence and she sometimes works as a bouncer. She is intelligent, likeable and believable. Although outwardly she appears very together, inside is a deep emotional vulnerability caused by serious violence and betrayal in her life. Charlie is the kind of woman who doesn't run from her fears, she embraces them and this leads to her becoming involved in dangerous situations.
If you are looking for a strong story with a heroine worthy of your admiration, lots of action and some cracking fight scenes, this is the one.
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Killer Instinct, by Zoe Sharp. The first in Zoe Sharp's highly acclaimed crime thriller series, originally published in 2001, this hard-boiled British mystery is now reprinted with previously deleted scenes, and a praise-filled foreword by Lee Child. Mind you, red-haired Charlotte (Charlie) Fox came on strong in youngish British author Zoë Sharp's early novels—read this and see -- but, like a lot of tough girls, softened up with time. Now, we can catch Charlie in her rough beginnings, back when she’s riding a motor bike in leathers, making a sorta kinda living teaching self-defense to women, a skill she acquired in the army, before she was kicked out for reasons she prefers not to share. Then she gets another part-time job doing security at the New Adelphi, a night club in Lancaster, a provincial city in Northwest England. Previously, she happens to have caught there the miserable karaoke performance of one Susie Hollins. Soon, the amateur detective reflects that 'Susie Hollins may have been no great shakes as a karaoke singer, but I didn't think that was enough reason for anyone to want to kill her,’ when Hollins is found dead. Just a few hours after she had foolishly tangled with Charlie at the club.

So Charlie expects that it's only a matter of time before the police appear at her door. But when they do, they reveal that the unlucky Hollins was the latest victim of a homicidal rapist stalking the locality. Charlie finds herself drawn into their investigation, into an odd relationship with the New Adelphi's handsome enigmatic owner Marc Quinn. Mind you, she was immediately viewed as an outsider by the club’s existing all-male security team; she suspects that there’s a link between the club and the serial killer.

This book is a solid, well-written debut with a strong sense of place: the grimy old city is sharply portrayed. Pacing is tight, narrative and descriptive work fine, dialog taut and witty. The author quit school at twelve, wrote her first novel when she was fifteen. After receiving death-threat letters on her work as a photojournalist, she here debuted the hero of her greatly praised Charlotte 'Charlie' Fox crime thriller series. And in Charlie, we meet a female protagonist, an amateur detective who's tough without losing her femininity. Most importantly to me, Charlie’s creator is able to combine well-choreographed blood and guts action with a strong feminist slant in her character. For Charlie, whose quixotic army experience has left her with training in the martial arts, also while in uniform endured a horrendous rape/attack that has left her psychically scarred, at odds with her upper-crust parents and society. Charlie knows what it's like to be a victim, seeks to empower women with her training. She is well-defined from her beginnings.

I had not been previously acquainted with Sharp’s work before seeing her at a recent mystery convention; her wit and humor decided me to give her a try. I am happy to have found this entertaining, exciting debut, with lots more work following it. Lucky me.
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2012
Ten years since its first publication, the first book in Zoë Sharp's series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox reads as freshly as if it were written this year. Charlie is a young woman who lives alone in part of an old gym in Lancaster - she has three showers but no bath - in the north-west of England. She makes a living by teaching women's self-defence classes, and seems a pretty tough character with her leathers, motorbike and punchbag hanging in the corner of her room.

The plot proper begins when Charlie visits an old haunt, a nightclub that has been refurbished and renamed as the New Adelphi. Charlie used a room at the old club for one of her classes, but as her friend Gary, the barman, tells her, the new management does not like the image of female self-defence and so Charlie has to seek another venue. Slightly embarrassed, Gary gives Charlie some complimentary tickets to the new club: when Charlie's motorbiking friend Clare realises there is karaoke in the offing, she can't keep away. The two women head off for an evening out which turns out to be far more action-packed, and tragic, than they'd anticipated.

The novel cracks on at a fair old pace, as Charlie becomes embroiled in helping the new owner, Marc, with his flawed security arrangements. She also helps Terry, another friend who owns a mobile video van. Terry has accepted a laptop computer in part-exchange for some rental money he is owed, but it is password-protected. Charlie, who is very well-connected in the friends department, asks another devoted pal to help her crack the password, to puzzling effect. In another subplot, the owners of a women's refuge where Charlie teaches one of her classes seek her help to deal with a man who is hanging round the grounds after dark and scaring the residents.

While the multilayered plot unfolds, parts of Charlie's back story are revealed: she's been in the army but has been forced out for reasons that later become apparent. The skills which she's learnt are highly useful in this book, though, as she is threatened, discovers a murder, and is attacked. Are all these events connected, or are they due to different perpetrators? Charlie has her suspicions, which in the absence of any realistic support from the police, she follows through via more threats, another murder, and more attacks to a violent climax or two in the New Adelphi nightclub, where the layers of plot become unpeeled in various dangerous ways.

I enjoyed Killer Instinct mainly for the character of the independent Charlie, who is very well drawn with just the right balance of toughness yet vulnerability based on her past in the army and, further back, in her childhood with the parents from hell. She is cut from the same cloth as V. I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone, yet her history is more vivid and involving. The depiction of her daily life in Lancaster is also well told, with a great sense of atmosphere. The plot, which starts out well, becomes rather unbelievable in the end as virtually everyone in the book seems to be central to it in one way or another.
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on 16 March 2012
Tough and uncompromising describes the overall feel of the book and also the character of the heroine Charlie Fox. Several people have compared Charlie Fox to Jack Reacher and I agree to some extent; both characters are determined and intelligent and refuse to back down from a fight but the reasons why they are like that are very different. Unlike Reacher Charlie Fox is not an imposing physical presence but she has grit and strength born from survival and the refusal to allow herself to become a victim again.
People have also compared the author Zoe Sharp to Lee Child (Jack Reacher's creator) and he even wrote a Foreword to this novel following Zoe Sharp being recommended to him by one of his fans. I am a huge Child/Reacher fan and am often scornful of people described as "the next Lee Child" but I have to say I agree with the comparison as despite the obvious differences the author does compare favourably to Lee Child.
The book itself is gripping and full of well developed, interesting characters and flows along at a pace that leaves you reluctant to put it down at any point but not so fast that the story lacks depth. In Charlie Fox the author has created a lead character that is intriguing and with a back story that you want to hear more about and although we get to find out about some of it there is still plenty more to explore in further books.
I would highly recommend this especially to readers who like me are Jack Reacher fans and to anyone who has read David Jackson's books which are also similar in feel.
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on 4 March 2012
I am a female motorcyclist and occasional karateka who lives in the north of England: I therefore couldn't resist downloading this book.

Charlie Fox is a very well-realised character. She has an authentic voice, and the immediacy and quirks of her dialogue were all very familiar to me. The precision of the author's descriptions of motorcycling are matched by the delightfully eccentric descriptions she uses for characters - the one springing to mind is the minor character whose cleft chin hangs off his face "like a small pair of buttocks".

Charlie's initial characterisation, as a rape survivor who still has some elements of self-blame, was hard for me to cope with, but principally because it was so well done. There are few rape survivors who don't blame themselves to some degree, and Charlie's initial reaction of learning self defence and then teaching it to others is an understandable one, even if I have some political qualms about putting the responsibility of preventing rape onto the victims, rather than the perpetrators. Charlie's growing refusal to let herself be a victim, and her determination to help herself and others, are a tough but rewarding read.

Her growth throughout the story feels genuine and evolutionary, rather than forced as some Tough Female Leads (TM) can seem. Through the course of the book I really grew to like and respect her as a person; her thought processes are well-detailed, and her moral dilemmas resonate strongly. By the final passages I was almost literally cheering her on.

The plot of the story isn't massively original, and I'm a devourer of detective fiction in all media, so I had most of it worked out well before the revelations, but bits of how we get to the end still came as surprises. It's a reasonably good crime thriller plot, but nothing more.

In summary then: the plot is merely good, but the characters, especially the lead, are outstanding and the descriptive passages are a delight. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes detective fiction, but with a warning that there are some triggery passages in there for rape and domestic violence survivors.
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on 11 July 2014
Our hero Charlie Fox is an ex soldier and hand to hand combat expert who teaches self defence. Over the course of the book she gets mixed up with drug dealing bent bouncers, dodgy club owners, local riff raff, hired punks and a woman hating psycho killer and over a series of about a dozen nastily choreographed dust ups she beats the living snot out of them all.
Written engagingly and with some humour in first person Charlie makes an appealing flawed heroine who thankfully for us fellas describes her sex scenes with vastly less detail than her comments on life and fighting tactics.
There's a 'Jack Bauer' bit where a pesky policewoman has to be knocked out so the cops don't ruin everything and a 'Scooby Doo' style reveal for the serial killer leading to the final nasty fight and his demolition with a last desperate application of fatal karate. She even gives an extra slap to the bloke she was boinking showing her sensitive side before he gets carted off by the cops.
Charlie gets hurt a lot in this one but she's a tough cookie. One is reminded of that line from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' when the ship captain says he's heard all about Indiana Jones and his appearance is exactly the way he imagined! Yes the violence has consequences. I hope she gets handier as the books continue or there isn't going to be much of her left.
For now however Mrs Sharp and Charlie have a new fan, keep up the good work!
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