RogerBW's Blog

Fifth Victim, Zoë Sharp 24 January 2015

Ninth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. Children of the super-rich are being kidnapped in the Hamptons, and Charlie is hired by the mother of one of the potential victims. But it's all more complex than it looks.

We're back with the flash-forward first chapter, but I'm glad to say that again it doesn't give away the major plot of the book. Pacing is decent too, with a reasonable amount of action from the start; there's a certain level of by-the-numbers class envy (though never offending the American audience by pointing out that most Americans don't see that there's a difference between wealth and class), and pretty much all the children are one or another sort of spoiled brat, but they're at least distinctive spoiled brats with their own personalities. The research does rather show at times; Sharp's clearly spent a lot of time reading about kidnappings and negotiations, and this is especially apparent during a sequence of discussion about how to respond to a particular situation, which no longer seems like one of Sharp's characters speaking, but rather a direct transcription from a procedures manual.

So Charlie works with a headstrong twenty-year-old girl, trying to gain her confidence, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. There are narrative clues to the identity of the bad guys (and if you've read any of these books before you certainly won't be surprised by some of the developments; they do fall into something of a pattern), but as usual with Sharp this isn't a plain single-enemy situation; everyone has something to hide. Attacks come: some are foiled, some are not, and people die.

Oddly, after the main plot's finished, there's a coda dealing with a villain who got away after Fourth Day. For a series that's lasted this long one obviously wants to see some overall progress, but it's curiously poorly integrated with the rest of the book. What's rather better integrated is the situation with Charlie's boyfriend Sean Meyer, left in a coma at the end of that book and visited from time to time as matters progress; Charlie rather unprofessionally takes her principal on one of these visits, and the result is a very well-written scene. Its effect is rather undone by the book's ending, which is clearly further series-setup, but we'll see how that goes when we get there.

Sharp's tendency to have Charlie make truly idiotic mistakes is, alas, back with a vengeance: one really big one, and several more minor ones, rather cast doubt on her professional colleagues' continuing assertions that she's good at this bodyguard stuff.

Although the secondary plots rely on knowledge of Fourth Day at least, this is probably not a terrible place to enter the series. Charlie is mostly operating on her own, and mostly doing a decent job of it; indeed, some of the weaker sections are her interactions with her boss.

Followed by Fox Five (short story collection) and Die Easy (novel).

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Previous in series: Fourth Day | Series: Charlie Fox | Next in series: Fox Five

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