RogerBW's Blog

Fourth Day, Zoe Sharp 27 October 2014

Eighth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. A man's son joined a cult, and later got killed; he went in to find out what had been so tempting, and decided to stay. Now Charlie's on the team that's getting him out. But it's all rather more complicated than it looks…

As with Second Shot, the book starts with a flash-forward chapter, but this time it doesn't give away a major point about the plot (and in fact it's deliberately deceptive). Yes, Charlie's gone undercover as a cult recruit: well, that was predictable as soon as we knew there was a cult involved. Also, there's plenty of action even before the narrative returns to this flash-forward point, so there isn't the same sense that that book had of marking time while we wait for the good stuff to start.

There are big twists, in Sharp's usual style, and nothing's quite what it seems. Alas, some of the setup for those twists is not entirely consistent with what's eventually revealed; Sharp tries so hard to make the reader think that a given interpretation of events is the only possible one that she sometimes over-eggs the pudding and goes just a little beyond what can be supported by the ultimate explanation. There's also a substantial minor plot thread which ends up simply being dropped rather than getting any resolution; I suppose one could claim that it was put in as a red herring, but it's still about a person with a story and I'd like to have read how that story went on.

As in previous books, Charlie has problems; but her problems this time are not with lack of professionalism but with her mental state and personal life, which seems entirely more reasonable. She's been through a lot, she's still coming to terms with the fact that she's actually rather good at being a stone-cold killer even though she wants to think of herself as basically a nice person, and it's not surprising that she doesn't have a lot of courage when it comes to sharing information about herself. She may be ex-Army and reasonably tough, but she no longer has the support network that Army people have. This is a much more interesting person than the havering wreck of Second Shot, even if she is sometimes boring in her obsession with her pregnancy and its outcome.

This one manages to be rather better than the last couple, up with First Drop for my enjoyment, though there's a promise of Big Changes in the ending which makes me edgy.

This isn't a good place to enter the series; there's a fair bit of reference to earlier events which will probably make little sense if you haven't read those books. First Drop is probably a decent starting point (which I believe is when Sharp switched publisher), but I began at the beginning (Killer Instinct) and I'm glad I did. Since she started using ordinal-numbered titles (First Drop, Third Strike, etc.), Sharp's moved the series to the USA for the long term, which I suppose is reasonable from a marketing point of view (not to mention letting more people get shot without Charlie's career coming to an end in prison), but I'll admit I preferred the setting of the earlier books in the UK, with their grim Northern nightclubs, council estates, petty crime, and beautiful scenery.

Followed by Fifth Victim.

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