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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I haven't read a traditional thriller novel in years, preferring my newer interest of strong heroines portrayed in urban fantasy novels. I like darker books, not books seeped in romance. Finding a good book is sometimes hard in a genre that mixes the two so much. After a while, those heroines with their supernatural powers and impossible skill sets often become cookie-cutter and formulaic, leaving a reader longing for something more believable, more *real*.

Look no further than the heroine created by Ms. Sharp. You will quickly slip into the character's skin and see parts of yourself within her inner complexity. I felt like I walked the streets of Lancaster with her and felt the pain of her past that shaped her into who she is today.

Charlie Fox is strong and a survivor through and through. She reminds me of Charlaine Harris' Lily Bard, in the author's popular woman sleuth Shakespeare series (one of two excellent mystery series she wrote before the one based on HBO's True Blood). While Fox's adventures are more bloody, more violent, and more heart stopping than Bard's, my comparison is more due to the smooth story telling, excellent pacing, and credible characters, which makes the portrayal of these fictional women very real and very believable.

I raced through the pages eager to see where the writer would take us and how Fox would pull through. Very rarely do I give up an entire day of my life to a book. This one was the exception. I loved it so much I immediately bought a copy for my father and plan to buy the others in the series as well. Ms. Sharp has a fan in me for life and I can hardly wait to read what other adventures she dreams up for Charlie Fox. Simply outstanding!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2003
If you like US female PIs (VI Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone) then you'll like Charlie Fox.
Charlie is tough. She teaches women's self-defence (which she took up after being raped in the army), rides a motorbike and is very independent.
The book starts with Charlie's friend Clare being attacked during karaoke night at a local nightclub by reigning champion Susie Hollins. Charlie deals with the attack and is offered a job as a bouncer by the clubs owner. Hours later Susie Hollins is found dead - the latest victim of a homicidal rapist that has been terrorising the local community. Charlie suspects a link between the nightclub and the homicidal rapist and she begins to investigate.
The book moves along at a cracking pace and Charlie is a believable tough heroine. The identity of the killer may be obvious in a plot that has been used many times before, but Charlie is interesting enough to carry you through.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2011
I am glad I purchased this e-book. I wanted to read those extra scenes, and it has been lovely to visit Charlie's story again from the beginning, particularly after reading the 'Fox Five' e-thology.

Zoë recently wrote about her fondness for Dick Francis books growing up, and I can see similar elements in `Killer Instinct'. Clever use of words, twists and turns in the story, and a central core of justice. I like details and back story so it's really satisfying to read about Clare and Jacob, as well as background about where Charlie came from as a person. Overall it reads like an easy conversation, with intriguing and sometimes uncomfortable elements.

My fondness for 'Killer Instinct' is also sparked by Lee Child's foreword; it is my favorite relateable anecdote for books - Lee,your story made me laugh out loud - thanks for the enjoyment! As for the book I devoured it in an afternoon, I couldn't put it down. For a first novel, it's impressive.

The series and the writing has grown from strength to strength, I suppose I enjoyed the later books more because I came across them first - though this filled in story links alluded to in the later books. I find myself liking gory detail much less these days, so for me it's a well-balanced blend of a rollicking good read, without the stuff that keeps me awake nights. Charlie herself is someone I can relate to, in how she attempts to address the effects of pivotal events in her life - seeing how she handles her dilemmas has kept me engrossed. Character development is something that really keeps my interest, as well as the unexpected, and I've certainly been surprised.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2011
I have been reading this series as it came out so it was a real pleasure to go back to the beginning and see Charlie as we first meet her. What a difference! Re-reading Killer Instinct made me appreciate Charlie's growth so much more. She is a fascinating character from the beginning and grows in each book. I am convinced that this is a series that needs to be read in order so one sees how Charlie's character is developed. Going back to the beginning with Charlie only reinforces that opinion.

This is one of my all time favorite series. If you are just starting the books, lucky you. If, like me, you are starting it again, it is time well spent. But then I think any time spent with Charlie is time well spent.
Killer Instinct: Charlie Fox book one
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2012
I love books with heroines that are strong, but vulnerable, capable, but not indestructible, intelligent, but not infallible. Charlie Fox hits the mark every time. Zoe Sharp gives us a taste of Charlie's past, building it slowly, filling in the blanks, making us wonder and guess so that Charlie's past becomes part of the mystery of the book. And the rest of the story is an excellent mystery as well with interwoven plots and great 3-dimensional characters. The next book in the series is definitely on my To Read list. Happy to see there are 4 more novels for me to devour. All we need now is a movie deal!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 14, 2005
I like the character of Zoe, she's smart, tough, independent and has been through a rough time. Unfortunately, she's the only really developed character is the book. She's also supposed to be in her mid-40's, but seemed about 10 years younger than that. The story itself is good, but I had two major problems. First, it's not hard to figure out who's behind the crimes and, second, the author way overuses the "had I but known" device at the end of chapters. But it's the first book of the series, so I'll hope the subsequent books are better. Still, it's a decent first book.

Correction (4/2010): Apparently, I was wrong on her age and she is in her 20s. That is certainly more in keeping with the character and her actions. I have, therefore, upgraded my rating from 2.5 to 3 stars. Thanks to those who caught my error, the the site won't let me change the stars at the top.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2012
As other reviewers mentioned, I too was drawn in by the advertised foreword by Lee Child, whose books I enjoy. However, I second the use of the adjective "inexplicable" to describe it.

While I applaud the idea of a strong, take-no-prisoners female who can compete in what is often portrayed as a macho world---and rooted for Charlie throughout, the amount of gore and protracted violence was definitely not my cup of chai. I cannot stomach people of either gender getting beaten to the proverbial pulp.

As a character, Charlie never quite grabbed me...she seemed to be either falling apart or tearing things apart. I placed her in the "damaged goods" category, more fueled by anger than common sense.

I cannot recommend the book to others but will check out the author's next free download or two to see if I find them more palatable.

Regardless of my evaluation of the story line, I appreciated the fact that there were no typos :-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2008
Killer Instinct is the first of the Charlie Fox mysteries. It's a quick read and I found myself caught up in the action. Zoe Sharp writes good action. I appreciate the fact that she doesn't always rely on guns to kill and maim.

The story takes place in England. Charlotte Fox, Charlie, is ex-British special forces. She's offered a security job at the nightclub. A murder happens and Charlie investigates. Don't be fooled, this book isn't just a whodunnit murder investigation. Figuring out who's good and who's bad isn't that tough. The story is about Charlie, what happened in her past (it ain't pretty), her relationships with friends and family, and how she's trying to move forward.

I enjoyed this book and have passed it around to friends and co-workers. So far everyone has liked it. They have all moved on to read the rest of the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2012
I accidentally followed some author I'd never heard of simply because her tweets tended toward humor. After reading a few of her clever observations, I picked up Killer Instinct, her first book. Wow. What a great book. And don't I feel dim for not having heard of her before? Yes. (But I'm used to that feeling.)

The best part about discovering an established author is: No wait for the next book!

What makes an author like Ms. Sharp stand out from others is her skill. The writing is exceptional. Not just the metaphors and similes, but even the conjunctions. The little bits that hold a story together. Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Take care of the unions and the rest will take care of itself." He referred to union of beam and joist. Architecture and writing are parallel arts. Like architecture, writing requires detailed unions, a firm foundation, a plot with a view, and above all, it must be livable. Frank Lloyd Wright's attention to all those elements, right down to the unions, made his the most sought after architecture in history. Likewise, Zöe Sharp's attention to design elements both strategic and tactical make hers not just exciting thrillers, but beautiful as well.

The unions in writing are the transitions from suspense to explosive excitement. Often characters stumble from point A to point B with tiresome clichés. Ms. Sharp addresses these droll details with passages like this:

Into the quiet that followed came the raucous squeal of children at war. Somewhere upstairs, a baby cried relentlessly.

An important plot point followed that transition. A plot point involving children in a book about nightclubs and rapists. And it's not what you're thinking. It was such a clever transition and exceptional point that the reader is unwittingly drawn ever deeper into a tangled and fascinating web of character motivations.

The foundation in writing is the plausibility. Where women protagonists are concerned, this is too often swept under the `oh just go with it' principle. My favorite example of failure in plausibility is the Angelina Jolie movie, SALT. She beats up steroid-fed giants left and right despite having a height, weight, and reach disadvantage. Unreal. Completely. Not so with Ms. Sharp. She lays the ground work for a woman who can beat up big men and explains how. Not just using the right leverage, which is possible with a little luck, but in avoiding the unnecessary fight and outright fleeing when appropriate. Charlie Fox knows when to stand and when to run. Even more important to a believable character is what happens in her head. Ms. Sharp makes Charlie Fox come alive with thoughts like this:

If it's touched you personally, you look at other people taking risks with a sense of anger, as though they're belittling your own experience.

Even out of context, you know what she's talking about. These small but important pieces build a solid foundation on which a sympathetic character can stand.

A writer's plot is a threaded rope that a mystery/thriller fan like me can usually unravel by halfway through. If you read enough, red herrings are easy to spot. What keeps jaded readers like me both distracted and involved is the subplot. A well-placed subplot is like a garden a picture window's foreground. In Ms. Sharp's case, the subplot is heartbreaking and real. With only this passage, you can almost feel the tension between Charlie Fox and her parents:

I tried that out for size on the twisted corner of my psyche that had been feeding on my bitterness and hostility towards them for the last couple of years. It had been leaching acid into my mind like a perforated ulcer.

A good writer can make a passage like that seem real. Ms. Sharp is better than good, she binds you to the character so tightly that you'll clench your fist while reading. That's what makes it livable. I was not surprised to see someone bragging on Facebook just yesterday that she'd just acquired an original edition of Killer Instinct at considerable cost.

I'm looking for one myself.

Bottom line: Run right out and buy this book! Or any of Ms. Sharp's other books.

Peace, Seeley James
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2011
Unlike the other 2 reviewers, this is my first book by Zoe Sharp. As a first book in a series I found it well thought out and exceptionally well written. The plot and character development was excellent and her use of flash backs was perfect and not overdone. There were a few places where I could argue if Charlie's actions were reasonable but they were few and far between and frankly not that far out of wack.

Having lived in England for several years I totally enjoyed her use of common British slang in a way that fits right in with any conversation you might overhear on the street or in a shop. Having been gone for so long, there were a few words that I'm still trying to figure out but frankly that just added to my enjoyment of the way she writes. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention her excellent use of dry British humor; slipped in when you least expect it and analogies you likely would never come up with on your own.

All in all Zoe has done an excellent job of hooking me with Charie's character and her unusual style. I look forward to the next book in the series and, if the previous reviews are any indication, that will not be my last book in the Charlie Fox series or my last read written by Zoe Sharp.
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