Killer Instinct; a Charlie Fox mystery

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by Zoë Sharp

Meet Charlie Fox: Army veteran, Special Operations trained, self-defense instructor and motorcycle enthusiast. 

Born Charlotte Foxcroft to a father who is a top orthopedic surgeon and a mother who is a justice of the peace, Charlie believes she has been a disappointment to her parents since the day she was born alive while her twin brother was stillborn.

At the opening of this book, Charlie is living in a ramshackle building in a gentrifying area of Lancaster.  Her apartment was once a gym. The punching bag still hangs in the living room. Her bathroom has three showers and the former men’s room has been turned into a small kitchen. The best part of her apartment is the view across the River Lune toward Morecambe Bay.

She teaches self-defense classes at various locations. Having been gang-raped by four fellow soldiers — Donalson, Hackett, Morton and Clay — during her special ops training, Charlie is passionate about helping women protect themselves.  In her own case, she probably would have been killed had not another soldier interrupted the attack. 

During their court martial, the four claimed that it was a consensual drunken orgy that got out of hand. No one — not even the two other women in the training course — came forward to say otherwise or give evidence supporting Charlie.

After being found guilty of gross misconduct in the court martial and losing a bid to get justice in a civilian court, Charlie is awash in scandal and loses her case, her Army career and most of her relationship with her parents.

As this book opens, Charlie’s friend Clare Elliot begs her to go with her to a karaoke contest at the newly remodeled Adelphi Club. Clare’s partner, Jacob, is deadset against her going alone because there has been an attack and rape of a young woman in the area. He refuses to go with her.

It turns out that the stunning Clare has an equally beautiful voice. This enrages Susie Hollins, the tone deaf reigning karaoke queen, who attacks Clare. Charlie comes to the defense and holds Hollins off until an elegant man, clearly able to settle aggressive drunks, takes her off of Charlie’s hands.

Charlie is raging about the club’s inadequate security — too few staff, too large and complicated space –when the club owner, Marc Quinn, overhears her. He suggests she come talk to him.

The next day, Hollins turns up beaten, raped and murdered. Did she take unnecessary risks getting home? Or was she a victim of the Adelphi Club’s bouncers? As Charlie takes on a one-night-a-week security job at the Adelphi, she finds herself surrounded on one side by Marc Quinn’s silken sophistication and on the other by mocking hostility of the Adelphi’s bouncers, Len and Angelo. 

Killer Instinct is a fairly straightforward mystery without a lot of confusing complications. Charlie is a complex and interesting character well worth following through an entire series. This is a good introduction to her backstory. The killer instinct of the title is a recurring issue for Charlie: trained but never battle-tested, does she have an instinct for killing or will she hesitate at the decisive moment? And if she does have a killer instinct, what kind of a human does that make her?

The setting — the city of Lancaster in northwestern England — is a blend of the gritty and the revitalized. It’s a fresh and fitting locale.

The Charlie Fox series has gotten some high level praise from Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series, and Jeffrey Deaver, author of the Lincoln Rhyme series. Child has described Charlie as a female Jack Reacher.

 As of April 2018, there are 12 Charlie Fox books. Killer Instinct was followed by:

  • Riot Act. Charlie is now working at gym, when she runs into Sean Meyer, the Army training instructor she fell hard for but who wasn’t there when she needed him most.
  • Hard Knocks. Charlie goes undercover to a body guard training school at Sean’s request.
  • First Drop. Sean and Charlie go to Florida in this Barry Award-nominated thriller. This is Charlie’s first official assignment as a bodyguard protecting a teenage client.
  • Road Kill. The nightmare Charlie experienced in her Florida assignment have left her in limbo about her life and her career.
  • Second Shot. Charlie is assigned to protect a mega-million lottery winner and her four-year-old daughter from a stalking ex-husband, but can Charlie trust her instincts?
  • Third Strike. Charlie and Sean are living together in New York City and working for Parker Armstrong’s close protection agency.
  • Fourth Day. A Barry Award nominee, this book takes Charlie undercover to extract a client from the Fourth Day Cult in California.
  • Fifth Victim. Charlie is faced with preventing a kidnap plot involving the Long Island jetset.
  • Die Easy. Charlie and Sean are involved in a close protection detail at a post-Katrina charity fundraiser when they are confronted by someone from their past.
  • Absence of Light. Charlie is on her own in a disaster zone following a catastrophic earthquake.
  • Fox Hunter. Charlie is sent to a war zone to find and stop Sean Meyers, who appears to have gone off the rails.

About the Author: Zoë Sharp

Zoë Sharp grew up on a catamaran on the northwest coast of England. From the age of 12, her education was through correspondence courses at home.

She wrote her first novel at age 15. After doing various jobs, Sharp became a freelance motoring writer in 1988 and then became a photojournalist. It wasn’t until the 2001 publication of Killer Instinct — the first Charlie Fox thriller — that she achieved success as a novelist. The character of Charlie Fox evolved after Sharp herself received death threats in the course of her photojournalism career.

Two Charlie Fox novels were finalists for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel: First Drop and Fourth Day.

She lives in the English Lake District, where she enjoys sailing, fast cars and even faster motorcycles; target shooting; travel; movies; music and reading. She has a blog, At the Sharp End, and post regularly at Murder is Everywhere.


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