Female-led crime series: Charlie Fox – Interview with author Zoë Sharp
I’ve been interviewing authors who write female-led crime series, and starting us off is Zoë Sharp who writes the Charlie (Charlotte) Fox series.
Niki Mackay: Did you consciously decide to write a female-led series?
Zoë Sharp: Thanks so much for inviting me onto the blog, Niki! Did I consciously decide to write a female-led series? Yes, absolutely. The role of women in crime fiction has always fascinated me. They tend to be the victims—the ones having violence done to them rather than the ones perpetrating the violence. Writing a female main character who discovers she is capable of extremes of violence under the right circumstances, and following her journey, felt like a really interesting idea to explore.
NM: If so, why?
ZS: I loved to read thrillers growing up, but I was always frustrated by the female characters—they seemed to scream and fall over and require rescuing by the guys rather too much for my taste. I wanted to read about a woman who was more than capable of rescuing herself. Or, better still, someone the men would turn to when they needed rescuing. At that time, I couldn’t really find the kind of character I wanted to read about, so I decided I was going to have to write my own. Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox was the result. Paul Goat Allen in the Chicago Tribune described her as: “Ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic—and coolest—heroines in contemporary genre fiction.”
NM: How did the idea for your protagonist’s background come to you?
ZS: At the time I started writing about Charlie, back in the mid-1990s, the scandal of the hazing of trainees at the military barracks at Deepcut was just beginning to break. I’d heard all the arguments against women in the forces—and am still hearing them, to be honest—and Charlie’s background grew out of a combination of those elements. I wanted somebody who had the ability to kill, but who was denied an official outlet for that skill, as the army would have given her. Where does she go from there?
I’m delighted to get this review of DANCING ON THE GRAVE from crime writer Niki Mackay, author of the brilliant I, WITNESS. She said, “I haven’t updated my blog for ages, and I haven’t reviewed as I found myself in a bit of a reading slump! This absolute belter from Zoë Sharp put an end to said slump.”
This story, interestingly, starts with an animal death rather than a human one. A local VIP’s dog no less and this unusual crime is a catalyst straight into the action.
We meet Grace, a diligent CSI collecting evidence, then Detective Nick Weston. They realise early on that the weapon used ought not to have been available and both are determined to get to the bottom of it. A jagged tale of secrets and suspicion builds from this point. They are hindered by the powers-that-be but start to get taken more seriously when someone starts shooting and killing people, and it becomes apparent that the killer is a highly trained sniper.
‘Dancing on the Grave’ is a pacey, well-plotted crime novel with all the twists and red-herrings you would expect from the genre. It has an almost old-fashioned feel to it, and yet everything has a contemporary spin. I think this is achieved not just by the very current issue of shooter crimes, but also by Zoë Sharp’s obvious insight into human psychology and her exploration of themes such as PTSD, loneliness, neglect, and eating disorders.