A multi-dimensional noir protagonist…
I am not usually a huge fan of books that strike me as thiller- or noir-ish, but I very much enjoyed Killer Instinct, which is the first in the Charlie Fox series by Zoë Sharp. I think this was largely due to Sharp’s development of Charlie as a real person, complete with issues with her past, her present, and, for good measure, her parents. Too often, noir protagonists can seem like one-dimensional tough guys, but Sharp avoids that trap. Sure, Charlie is a veteran, complete with Special Forces training, so there’s no doubt she’s physically tough, but she also understands how to control a situation before fighting, to avoid having to use those physical skills. And she has some vulnerabilities that make her seem multi-dimensional and human.
As the story opens, Charlie has left the army, and is making a living teaching self-defense classes for women (and the occasional man). Through a friend, she picks up an additional job working security at the hot new night club in town, and that leads her into a macho world with illegal drugs, illicit porn videos, battered women, and a rapist who may somehow be linked to the club. As Charlie tries to help her friends, keep her own life together, deal with her attraction to the club’s all-too-attractive owner, discover who’s pushing the drugs, and figure out who the rapist might be, she learns some things about herself, and about others. And she finally figures out who the criminals are as well.
Sharp also does a very nice job of creating an underworld in what could be almost any city or sizeable town in the world. I’m not from the UK, so I may have missed some subtleties associated with Killer Instinct’s setting in the Lancaster area, but it was easy for me to imagine that Lancaster could just as well be some other place (Laramie, Laredo, Lafayette…) that looks good on the surface, but has some rough zones.
I don’t tend to give very many five-star ratings, but I was impressed by Killer Instinct. It’s way out of my usual reading preferences, but still kept me up late into the night, and made me look forward to reading more books in the series. So I gave it the five stars! And finally, my thanks to Felony & Mayhem Press and to Edelweiss for the review copy.