THIRD STRIKE

Charlie Fox book seven

Synopsis

'I was running when I saw my father kill himself. Not that he jumped off a tall building or stepped in front of a truck but − professionally, personally − what I watched him do was suicide.'

The last person that ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard, Charlie Fox, ever expected to self-destruct was her own father, an eminent consultant surgeon. But when Charlie unexpectedly sees him admitting to gross professional misconduct on a New York news program, she can't just stand by and watch his downfall.

"captures readers on the first page and doesn't let go − highly recommended"

Library Journal starred review

That's not easy when Richard Foxcroft, always cold towards his daughter, rejects her help at every turn. The good doctor has never made any secret of his disapproval of Charlie's choice of career − or her relationship with her boss, Sean Meyer. And now, just as Charlie and Sean are settling in to their new life in the States, Foxcroft seems determined to go down in a blazing lack of glory, taking his daughter and everyone she cares about down with him.

But those behind Foxcroft's fall from grace have not bargained on Charlie's own ruthless streak. A deadly professional who's always struggled to keep her killer instinct under control, this time she has very personal reasons for wanting to neutralise the threat to her reluctant principal. And when the threads of the conspiracy reach deep into a global corporation with almost unlimited resources, the battle is going to be bitter and bloody.

From the author's notebook

THIRD STRIKE was another instance where I was honoured to offer a character name to be auctioned off in aid of the Wisconsin Literacy charity at the Bouchercon Mystery Convention in Madison, 2006. The eventual winning bid came from Terry O'Loughlin and I'm delighted to include Terry in the book. The character plays a pretty pivotal role, and once again I've tried to include as many little snippets of Terry's life − interest in football, the law, the four cats, holiday destination − as possible. I even asked for an opinion on what kind of fast car the character ought to drive. And I know they say you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but mixing fact with fiction in this case was a lot of fun.

The book is partly set in New York City, where Charlie and Sean have taken up residence after the events of SECOND SHOT. Until 2005, we hadn't been to NYC for years, but we went for a visit in June of that year. At that time I had no intention of setting a book there, but turning off my brain isn't that easy and I soon found myself jotting down a whole load of my impressions of the place, more out of habit than with research in mind. Those notes came in very useful indeed when I was fleshing out the book. Just goes to show, in this job nothing is ever wasted.

Excerpt

Until the arrangements could be made for them to go home to the UK, my father booked a room for himself and my mother at the Grand Hyatt, which was somewhat more in keeping with his tastes and made me realise I should have questioned who'd chosen his previous hotel.

There were a lot of things I should have questioned.

My father refused Parker's offer of the use of a company car and driver while they were in New York. Instead, much to my mother's obvious disappointment, he insisted that they would catch a cab on the street, and Sean and I went down with them to the lobby. It was a good opportunity to have one last go at getting my father to make a stand, but he'd fallen back on frosty formality.

"gripping . . . readers will kill for the next installment"

Publishers Weekly

My mother did her best to fill the awkward silence with nervous inconsequential chatter that put nobody at ease. I wasn't the only one who was glad when we reached ground level.

Sean nodded to the doorman, who whisked outside to summon a cab, something he seemed to achieve almost instantly.

'You should have told me you were in trouble,' I said, making one last effort at getting through and aware even as I spoke of the stiffness in my voice that would prevent me from doing so. 'Whatever you may think of me, this is what I do.'

My father looked down his nose at me. 'I'm well aware of your capabilities, Charlotte,' he said curtly. 'That is precisely why I didn't.'

We saw the yellow Crown Victoria pull up smartly outside, and moved towards the doors. My mother seemed to have some spring back in her step, as though now she was reunited with her husband, all was right with the world again. With a sense of panic, I felt my parents slipping away from me. Unwilling to let it end like this, I walked with them, out into the pale slanted sunshine.

Sean had carried my mother's heavy suitcase as far down as the lobby without apparent effort, setting it down while he tipped the doorman. My father picked it up, clearly surprised by the unexpected weight, and began lugging it across the sidewalk to the waiting cab while my mother paused in the doorway to rifle through her handbag for her sunglasses.

"will keep you turning pages until dawn . . . Charlie Fox is simply the best"

Jeffery Deaver

I had started to follow him when I heard the engine away to our left, even above the normal background sounds of traffic. American engines are generally big and torquey. They don't need to rev in order to provide power unless you want a lot of it, and you want it now. This was being thrashed and I turned instinctively towards the noise.

I was just in time to see another taxicab mount the kerb about ten metres away, trailing sparks as its sump graunched over the concrete, front suspension taking the hit. It came barrelling along the sidewalk towards us.

Like the one idling by the kerb, the second cab was a yellow Crown Victoria. The big car leapt towards us, seeming wide enough to totally fill the space between the building and the street, engine roaring. The front wing grazed off the front façade, striking yet more sparks like it was breathing fire, and it kept on coming.

My father froze in its path, still clutching the handle of the suitcase. Adrenaline fired into my system like a shot of nitrous. I took three or four rapid, boosted strides and hit him shoulder against shoulder, the force of my momentum enough to send him pitching clear of the cab's flightpath.

Spinning halfway towards the threat, I saw nothing but the black plastic of the front grille and a vast sea of yellow steel that made up the car's bonnet. I even had time to notice the taxi medallion riveted to the centre.

In that weird, slowed-down way things have, I recognised that I didn't have time to run, and nowhere to run to. My only thought was to minimise the hit.

Years of falling off horses as a kid taught me not to try and break a fall with my limbs outstretched. Later, years of martial arts training of one form or another taught me how to use them to slow my descent much more scientifically.

"action-packed . . . readers will enjoy this fast-paced thriller"

Harriet Klausner

So I jumped, straight up, tucking my knees in like I was dive-bombing into a swimming pool. I didn't have nearly enough height to clear the Crown Vic's front grille, which clipped my left leg halfway down my calf as the car shot underneath me, causing me to tumble violently. As I somersaulted across the expanse of yellow bonnet, I slapped my hand and forearm down hard into the steel to lessen the impact, but hit the windscreen hip and elbow first with enough force to break the laminated glass anyway.

I had visions of continuing to roll right up over the roof, at which point the huge slant-sided advertising hoarding that ran full length along it would probably have broken my back. Then the driver of the rogue cab stood on his brakes.

The Crown Vic lurched, slithering, to a stop, jolting as it hit something that I could only pray wasn't my father's body. The sudden deceleration was enough to spit me straight off the front edge of the bonnet and send me thumping back down onto the ground, knocking the wind out of me. The last time I'd been hit by a moving vehicle while on foot, I recalled whimsically, at least I'd had the forethought to be wearing bike leathers.

Rid of his inconvenient hood ornament, the cab driver punched the accelerator before I'd even hit the deck. I flinched, trying to roll out of the way of the fat front tyre that was now heading straight for my chest, and knowing I didn't stand a hope in hell of doing so. All I could smell was hot oil and burnt rubber and rust.

Game over.