Sunday, January 18, 2015

First Tastes: An avid fan takes a look at Charlie Fox

Last year, I introduced a new series to Crime Watch, "First Tastes", which will regularly take a look at novels where some terrific authors first introduced their series protagonist. One of the many things that makes crime fiction great is the myriad of fascinating characters in the genre, and the way in which we, as readers, can follow characters we love and loathe over a series of tales, rather than just one-off stories.

Unfortunately, the 'regularly' part of the new series fell flat (along with my also then-new 'I Can't Wait to Read' series), as I dealt with a few things away from the page and screen. I'm now pleased to reintroduce the series in 2015. Moving forward it may be monthly or fortnightly or ad hoc, but whichever it is, I am looking forward to sharing my own thoughts and those of some great guest bloggers, about the first appearances of some of crime fiction's most intriguing characters.

Today I'm pleased to re-kickstart this series with a bang by sharing a keen crime fiction reader's take on Zoe Sharp's all-action heroine, Charlotte 'Charlie' Fox. Our guest blogger is Karen, from Takapuna in New Zealand, who describes herself as "a frequent visitor to Takapuna Library, who likes crime stories without lots of blood or 'really twisted psyche'-type characters". Karen says she wanted to share her thoughts about Charlie Fox because the series has meant a lot to her, and a recent instalment paid homage to Christchurch, New Zealand - a city which suffered devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

So here's Karen, taking a look at Charlie Fox.

Author Zoe Sharp in
"Charlie Fox mode"

By Karen of Takapuna

My favourite crime fiction character is definitely Charlie Fox, the ex-Special Forces turned bodyguard heroine created by Brit author, Zoë Sharp. She’s a tough, self-sufficient protagonist who, “doesn’t suffer fools gladly and can take good care of herself”.

I did not meet Charlie in her first story....

In the library some years ago I grabbed a paperback completely at random. It was HARD KNOCKS; and from a few pages in I was hooked. In this story (Charlie’s third outing), she is reluctantly doing a favour for an old friend, and whatever was afoot means she has to keep her wits about her.

Next, I found RIOT ACT (book two) and devour that story too, enjoying it immensely. I wanted to know Charlie's history and how she came to be - something about her feistiness and determination just grabs me, and there were so many tantalising hints about her back story ... KILLER INSTINCT, Sharp’s debut novel, was proving difficult to track down. When I finally got my hands on it I read it in one sitting - it was subsequently republished with a couple of extra scenes and an amusing foreword by Lee Child.

Although I appreciate a good action thriller – and there’s plenty of action in Charlie’s stories – I read mainly for character. An interesting, complex and principled protagonist like her makes for a great read. Charlie has depth, a sense of humour, a feeling for justice, compassion, and above all she’s human, like the rest of us. She’s also been described as a ‘female Jack Reacher’ but I see much more to her than that. Charlie does more soul searching than Reacher and carries more baggage than a mere toothbrush. Lee Child himself is a firm fan and is on record as saying: "If I were a woman, I’d be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox."

Zoë herself describes Charlie Fox as a sympathetic character rather than just ‘a guy in nylons’.

Very rarely for me, I have re-read the whole series many times. The writing is clever, and although I think Kiwis quite possibly would understand the British quips better than some Americans, (the US uses different words for common items), this doesn’t detract from the storyline. In fact I’ve laughed out loud while simultaneously being gripped by the twists and turns of each book. I really care about Charlie and what happens to her, and I think that is a testament to a writer’s skill.

I’ve recently re-read ABSENCE OF LIGHT, Charlie’s latest outing, which is played out against the devastation following a major earthquake, and pays tribute to the rescue teams, victims and survivors of the earthquakes in Haiti and Christchurch, New Zealand. This novella’s cliffhanger ending means I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment, as in my opinion each book in the series (and Charlie) keep getting better.

Thanks Craig for the opportunity to share a true favourite. I often think of how glad I am that I grabbed that paperback!


You can read more about Charlie Fox and her creator Zoe Sharp here:


What do you think of Karen's take on Charlie Fox? What do you like about the series and the character? What other crime fiction characters would you like to see featured in 'First Tastes' moving forward? 

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