Narrator: Justine Eyre
Series: Charlie Fox #9
Published by Dreamscape Media on 1/12/12
When Parker Armstrong, head of the Armstrong Meyer close protection agency, is hired by Caroline Willner to provide bodyguard service for her daughter Dina, he assigns the job to Charlotte “Charlie” Fox. Charlie is English and ex-army and after her life was turned upside down and she was court-martialed she parlayed her uncanny marksmanship, hand-to-hand skills, and ability to react instinctively to a threat into a job as a bodyguard with help from her lover Sean Meyer. With Sean out of commission after events that took place in Fourth Day, Charlie is working solo guarding Dina as she flits among the other young people who exist in a bubble of unimaginable wealth on Long Island. Three recent kidnappings have everyone on edge and while Charlie’s job may be prevention, an attack on her principal followed by an attempt on her own life sends her on a desperate race to track and stop the kidnappers.
Zoë Sharp’s books all seem to follow a pattern in terms of how involved I become in them. For the first half, I find myself enjoying the story and interested in the set-up but at somewhere around 50% a switch always seems to get flipped and I enter “go-away-I-don’t-care-if-the-house-is-on-fire / sleep-who-needs-sleep?” territory. This book was no exception and probably qualifies as my favorite in the series. It works as a stand-alone but Charlie has a lot of baggage she’s worked through and has a well-written character arc so I would suggest starting from the beginning of the series if possible. As Charlie follows Dina on her usual circuit of parties and horse-back riding, the two establish an accord. In many ways, Dina is a young woman that reminds Charlie of what her life might have been like if she hadn’t set her sights on joining the army. While I wouldn’t call her feelings toward Dina maternal, in her usual practical manner she tries to guide/advise Dina on a personal level in addition to being on hand to foil an attempted kidnapping. The supporting characters are multi-dimensional, the “whodunit” is somewhat twisty, and the three plot lines (the close protection gig, Charlie’s relationship with Sean, and tying up some loose ends from the previous book) are adroitly woven into a cohesive tale with an ending that wrapped up the main story-line but left me wondering “what happens next!?” The action scenes are tightly paced and realistic (it’s refreshing to hear the terms magazine and round instead of clip and bullet) and the interaction between Parker and Charlie adds a nice bit of tension.
There were two aspects to the narration that I found challenging. In the “it’s not you, it’s me” category is the fact that when a narrator has a very distinctive voice/tone/vocal flutter, I have a difficult time sinking into the narration. I was also distracted by the English and New York accents, in part because up until this installment I’ve read hard-copy and had already created a voice for Charlie in my head and I struggled to reconcile my mental version of Charlie’s Cheshire accent with Justine Eyre’s interpretation. I did, however, reach a point in the narration where my buying into the accents or not became a moot point because what I was sold on was Justine Eyre’s ability to voice the core aspects of Charlie’s personality. Each character was given a unique voice and the pacing of the narration was excellent, particularly during action sequences.
This was a well-paced story with excellent action sequences and well-crafted characters who capture the reader’s interest. The narration is good although I suggest listening to a sample to ensure compatibility with your individual preferences.