Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Third Strike"

Zoë Sharp's professional writing career began in 2001 with Killer Instinct, the first Charlie Fox book. This novel was followed by Riot Act, Hard Knocks, and First Drop, which earned a nomination for a Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. Road Kill and Second Shot are the fifth and sixth titles in the series.

Sharp applied the Page 69 Test to her new Charlie Fox novel, Third Strike, and reported the following, beginning with page 69:

“Take the next lane coming up on the right,” I said. “The house is about a mile and a half further down, on the right.”

The instructions were probably unnecessary. Sean had been to my parents’ place on at least three occasions over the years, which meant he could have found it again blindfolded. He had that annoyingly uncanny sense of direction.

Now, I clutched for the center armrest as the Shogun swayed violently. “And can you please try and remember they still drive on the left over here? These roads are too narrow to go bowling down the middle at this speed.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Sean said mildly, not slackening his pace. “I’m just making best use of the visibility – hedging my bets.”

Hedge will be the operative word if you meet one of the locals towing a trailer with half a ton of horse in it,” I snapped.

“Calm down, Charlie,” Sean said, sounding irritatingly placid. “We need to decide how we’re going to handle this. We don’t know what – if anything – we’re walking into.”

“Simple,” I said, aware of a tightness in my chest that made it difficult to breathe. “We knock on the front door and, if there’s anyone I don’t recognize in the house with her, we kick the shit out of them and go home. Next?”

He pursed his lips as he stuck the unwieldy four-by-four into a narrow, blind left-hander, his movements deceptively slow when things seemed to be happening around him so fast.

“In essence, I like it,” he said lightly. “What it lacks in style it makes up for in dumb simplicity.” His voice hardened. “What makes you think you’ll get further than the threshold before they cut her throat?”

His choice of words was deliberate, I knew. It jolted me out of my focused little bubble of anger, made my hand stray automatically towards my own throat, to the fading scar that lay hidden beneath the high neck of my sweater.

When Marshal invited me to do the Page 69 or Page 99 test on the previous book in the Charlie Fox series, Second Shot, I was disconcerted to discover that neither page was, I felt, quite representative of the rest of the book. However, I’m delighted to report that Page 69 of Third Strike is much closer to the mark.

My former soldier-turned-bodyguard heroine, Charlie, has just landed back in the UK from New York, together with her partner, Sean, having rescued her highly respected – and respectable – consultant surgeon father from a police raid on a brothel in one of the seedier areas of Brooklyn. (Don’t ask – it’s a ‘you had to be there’ moment.) They suspect that her mother is in some kind of danger in the family home in Cheshire, and are hurrying there to find out what, and who, is responsible. Getting in will require a mix of guile and aggression that makes Charlie and Sean so good at their job. What follows was a fun scene to write and, I hope, a fun scene to read.
Read an excerpt from Third Strike, and learn more about the author and her work at Zoë Sharp's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue