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November Book Club Choice

Third Strike by Zoë Sharp

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Bodyguard and ex-Special Forces soldier Charlie Fox is recovering from gun shot wounds but itching to impress her boss and get back to work. What she didn't expect was to be drawn into a dangerous case of a personal nature. When she hears her eminent surgeon father is caught up in a murder scandal she is determined to get to the bottom of it - even though he doesn't seem to want her help or be denying the accusations. As the danger and violence mounts, it it clear someone powerful is determined to destroy her father's reputation and while she and her parents have never seen eye to eye, it's up to Charlie to uncover the truth even if the it means landing herself ,and her own company's reputation, in line of fire.

A fast-paced thriller that combines action, suspense, a flawed heroine and the complicated dynamics of family relationships.

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Author Q&A

Q. I’ve not come across any books that feature a female bodyguard as a protagonist – were you specifically out to do something different?
Claire Fantini, Middlesex

A. Hi Claire. I suppose I was trying to do something different in a way. I couldn’t see Charlie Fox as a police procedural kind of character and there just isn’t quite the same tradition of the private eye in the UK, where I initially based her. Plus, I think I would have found it difficult to sustain her as an amateur sleuth with a day-job completely divorced from crime. The world of close protection is a fascinating one, though. And, by definition, anyone hiring a bodyguard must feel they’re under some kind of direct threat, which was an exciting premise on which to base each of the stories. It was good to mix Charlie up with all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations, and constantly find a new way to challenge her. Putting a protagonist under pressure is a very interesting means of creating conflict and to keep driving the story forwards. In SECOND SHOT, for instance, I wanted to see how Charlie would cope with having her usual physical self-assurance stripped away from her. She’s shot twice on the first page and spends half the book on crutches, and she’s not a character who is used to being helpless or vulnerable. That brings back all kinds of unpleasant memories for her, so she had to cope with all that, as well as the difficulties brought up by the story.

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Q. Did you speak to many female bodyguards for research? Or had any personal experience with bodyguards yourself?
Bob Jenks, Philadelphia

A. Hi Bob. When I first started writing the Charlie Fox books, I spoke to a few people who worked in that field, although no women, interestingly enough! I also read everything I could get my hands on, and being an ex competition rifle shooter, and having learned a fair amount of self-defence, it was a logical progression. When I wrote HARD KNOCKS, the book where Charlie goes to Germany to a close-protection training school, the prejudice she faces there is as accurate as I could make it. That, I think, comes from spending most of my working life in fields where women were constantly underestimated. And in THIRD STRIKE, Charlie’s clashes with Vondie are partly fuelled by the other woman’s professional jealousy. Vondie is used to being the best woman, and when she finds herself outclassed, she takes it particularly badly, with violent results!

Q. This book delves into Charlie’s difficult relationship with her family. Did you know this would be an important theme in the series right from the outset, your first book?
Clodagh Boyle, Dublin

A. Hi Clodagh. The attitude of Charlie Fox’s family to her mind set and abilities has been a theme I’ve touched on throughout the series. It’s an important factor in her life, and the fact that her parents strongly disapprove of her work as a bodyguard - and Sean - has caused a lot of problems for all of them. Charlie’s father, being a consultant surgeon, has found it especially difficult to accept having a daughter with the ability to kill, but he still loves her (although I agree he often has a funny way of showing it) and has always come to her aid when she’s needed him most. And every time he did pop up in the earlier books, I felt he really stole the scenes he was in. I knew I wanted to give him a much bigger role to play, and THIRD STRIKE gave me that opportunity. Intertwining the character arcs of Charlie with those of her mother and her father was one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of writing this book. They all end up in very different places to where they started, and I’m sure they’ll have their parts to play in the future!

Q. I understand you have a day-job as a freelance photojournalist – how do you find the time to write and promote successful novels whilst still having another career?
Michael Waters, London

A. Hi Michael. Erm, how do I do it? Well, sleep is very overrated! I started off writing non-fiction magazine articles back in 1988, and have been making a living through words and pictures - in one form or another - ever since. Although I now don’t write non-fiction any more, concentrating on the books instead, I do still work as a freelance photographer. To be honest, having to write in the cracks of the day-job makes me focus more on the task at hand. Photography is creative in a completely different way to writing, and it teaches you to get the essence out of something in a snapshot, to really look at things, to see beyond the obvious. Besides, in the course of my day-job I’ve met all sorts - mercenaries, cage fighters, arms dealers, criminals and millionaires. What’s not to like? It has its downside, of course, like any other job. I broke a rib for the second time this summer, hanging out of a moving car to do very-low-angle tracking shots, but most of the time it’s a lot of fun and allows me to come back to writing refreshed.

Q. Which thriller writers have inspired you and/or whose books do you enjoy reading?
Jonathan Peake, Croydon

A. Hi Jonathan. The first crime novel I ever read was a Leslie Charteris ‘The Saint’ given to me by my grandmother. I still have that very book, although I admit it’s looking a bit battered these days. From there, I moved on Conan Doyle, Dorothy L Sayers, PD James, Val McDermid, Natasha Cooper. Then there was Frederick Forsyth, Jack Higgins, Alex Hailey, Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler, and I really fell in love with the thriller genre, although I kept longing for female characters who did their own rescuing, rather than always needing to be saved by the heroes! These days, it’s Lee Child, Robert B Parker, Jeffery Deaver, Quintin Jardine, Ken Bruen, David Morrell, Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham, Tess Gerritsen, Gayle Lynds, SJ Rozan, JT Ellison - I could go on and on. Plus, I’ve just started rereading all my old Dick Francis books again, and being impressed with the characterisation and the storylines all over again.

Q. Do you ever get writer’s block and if so, what do you do to break it?
Terry Walters, Austin

A. Hi Terry. I tend to run out of faith in a book rather than actually get stuck with the story. But, if I have come to a tricky bit in the plot, then usually a long car journey allows me to sort it out. I do a lot of very useful plotting on the move, and always carry a notebook and pen with me. (My Other Half, I should point out, is usually driving at this point ...) I also plan out scenes in note form before I write them, even if only just the bare bones of the dialogue, so I know roughly what the meat of the scene is going to be. I listen to music all the time while I’m writing, too, and do find that helps set the mood or the tone of a section. But, if I’m really up against a brick wall, then I look carefully as the basic underlying structure, as I usually find if I’m having real difficulty progressing a scene forwards, it’s probably because I’m trying to push it in a direction it’s not meant to go!


Book Club Reviews

This star review was by Gill Cooper of UK. A copy of the next Book Club Choice

Charlie Fox is a heroine for our time and in Third Strike she faces a new challenge and new life in the USA.
Zoe Sharp has created one of my favourite series and each episode is to be savoured!Gill Cooper, UK

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OOOh I can't wait for the next Zoe Sharp book. It was fantastic. I highly recommend it. Charlie Fox is a great character.Ellen McCarthy, Waterford (Ireland)


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