I was very happy to find this piece by Janise at Best Books of her top five favourites among my books. See if you agree with her selection:
Largely writing mystery thrillers, the British writer Zoë Sharp has an eye for action, creating strong and determined characters. These have stood the test of time for many of her readers around the world, as they continue to come back for more. Previously working as a photojournalist, she would later turn to writing crime fiction and thrillers, using her experiences to help inspire her novels. Included in this would be that of her Charlie Fox character, which would come about in part due to the death threats received during her dangerous line of work as a journalist.
Publishing her first novel in 2001, Sharp would release Killer Instinct, which would pave the way for her literary career. It would also be the first in the Charlie Fox series of novels, which she would soon follow up in 2002 with Riot Act. She’d produce over eleven novels in the series, as they’d come to be likened to Jack Reacher, with their high-octane brand of action. In 2013 she’d release the novel The Blood Whisperer, which would be one of her first stand-alone thrillers. The Fox series is what she’s become most famous for though, as readers eagerly await each release with anticipation.
Often speaking publicly too, Zoë Sharp is a regular fixture on the literary scene, drawing in crowds to each of her appearances. She’s also been optioned for television, with her Charlie Fox character becoming internationally recognized by both the public and critics alike. Moving the mystery genre forwards, she creates strong and resourceful characters that really do make their mark. Over the years she’s collaborated with well known writers such as John Lawton, along with winning awards such as the Short Story Dagger, as she continues to establish her name with many notable literary highlights.
Best Zoë Sharp Books:
These are my own personal top five novels ranked in order from Zoë Sharp’s career so far:
#5: Dancing on the Grave (2018)
Set in the Lake District there’s a killer on the loose, disturbing the rural idyll of an otherwise quiet English summer. Now Grace McColl is on the scene, and this case really is going to test her to the limit, especially with her wanting to prove herself after the mistake that cost the life of another. Transferring from London, Detective Constable Nick Weston is also investigating, as he hopes to put the past behind him after previously being left for dead.
This is a particularly tense opening to Sharp’s Lakes Thriller Trilogy, really setting the scene for the series to come. As an all round solid mystery thriller though, it definitely does what it sets out to do, keeping the reader glued there to edge of their seat. I also felt myself fully invested in the characters too, with them really coming into their own as the book progressed.
#4: Fox Hunter (2017)
Looking to put the past behind her, vowing never to get consumed with revenge for the soldiers who put an end to her army career, it seems history has finally caught up with Charlotte Fox. Heading out on an assignment as private bodyguard into rural Iraq, Charlie is tasked with locating a missing comrade. It’s then that she comes across the body of one of the men that wronged her, and she begins to wonder if a vendetta on her behalf is being carried out, as more bodies of the soldiers turn up, leading to her needing to put a stop to the killing quickly and quietly.
The twelfth book in the Charlie Fox series of novels, it’s great to see it still running strong as it ever was. All of the characters still feel fresh, with Fox herself being far more fully developed than ever, as her character is taken in a new and interesting direction. Testing her to the limit, it really sees what she’s made of, as she comes alive off the page, in a highly tense and taut thriller.
#3: Bad Turn (2019)
Quitting her job working in protection, Charlie Fox finds herself being turfed out of her apartment, forcing her to work for a shifty arms dealer. Starting out as an otherwise simple house-sitting job for the client, she soon finds herself embroiled in the affairs of billionaire arm’s dealer Eric Kincaid. Following an attempt on the life of his wife Helena, Fox must now contend with the external forces that want to put an end to their lives, all whilst holding secrets of her own.
This book really leapt out for me, in that it definitely tested the moral conviction of Charlie Fox as a leading character. Pushing her to the limit, it manages to bring another side to her, which is especially impressive considering this is the thirteenth book in the series. Not only that, but it also brings plenty of suspense and action to the table, giving the story a real sense of drive throughout.
#2: Bones in the River (2020)
Hosting the largest traveller gathering in all of Europe, the Appleby Horse Fair has brought in a huge influx of 40,000 visitors into the small English town of Lakeland. With tensions rising between the locals and the travelling community, the arrival of the fair has become an annual occurrence. Now there’s a body in the river nearby and it seems someone wants to use the local animosity to the fair as cover for their crime, and it’s this case that Crime Scene Investigator Grace McColl must solve, along with Detective Constable Nick Weston.
The second novel in the Lakes Thriller Trilogy, this would bring another suspense filled mystery for the pair to solve. Set in the Lake District it’s a great piece of story-telling, plus there’s some interesting issues and commentary brimming under the surface. Carrying the plot forwards, Grace and Nick really hold it all together, as I definitely felt as if I got to know them.
#1: Hard Knocks (2003)
Going undercover with Sean Meyer, Charlie Fox is initially reluctant to find out how her old army comrade was murdered. Having been betrayed by the now deceased Kirk Salter, Fox begins to unravel secrets from her past that she rather would’ve remained buried. With a trail of murdered bodies all across Europe it seems that time is of the essence, and she’s got to make it through the elite school of Major Gilby if she wants to learn the truth.
This was a tough and exciting read, with a straight-forward premise that definitely hit kept me glued to my seat. Containing a lot of action packed moments, it really worked at building the tension constantly throughout. Marking the third part in the ongoing Charlie Fox series, it really shows her at her best I felt, showing what these stories are actually made of.
Best Authors To Read If You Like Zoë Sharp:
Karin Slaughter: The American crime writer Karin Slaughter is a great choice for anyone looking for intriguing and immersive mystery thrillers. She’s very much a veteran of the genre, really pushing it to the limit, having been published worldwide to international acclaim. Particularly well known for her Will Trent novels following the eponymous special agent, she fully understands what it is that keeps her readers coming back for more.
Lee Child: For many the British writer James Dover Grant, aka Lee Child, needs no introduction, as he’s written the Jack Reacher novels for some time now. A skilled author when it comes to both action and suspense, his ongoing franchise is hugely popular with readers from all over. Set in America, the series itself follows the former military police officer Jack Reacher, as he undertakes various different missions and assignments across the United States.
Vince Flynn: Writing his stories following the assassin Mitch Rapp, American author Vince Flynn would create a number of action thriller novels during his lifetime. Later his Mitch Rapp series would also go on to become a film, along with the franchise itself being continued by fellow American writer Kyle Mills. His work definitely left a mark, one that continues to live on today, as I continually find myself returning to this particular series.
Stella Rimington: Previously working as the Director General of the MI5, it stands to reason that British writer Stella Rimington would bring a certain level of authenticity to her work. It’s clearly a world she knows well, writing about the intelligence services quite unlike any other writer currently out there today. Largely known for her Liz Carlyle series following a young MI5 intelligence officer, she produces mysteries and thrillers around the character in her ongoing suspense fueled franchise.
Brad Thor: Perhaps most notable for his high-concept and equally high action Scot Harvath collection of novels, the American author Brad Thor really knows how to turn up the tension. He takes a straight-forward premise and brings it to boiling point, excelling in both drama and suspense, really making the most of his material. The character of Scot Harvath himself is an ex-Navy SEAL, working undercover as a counter-terrorism agent, ensuring justice is done wherever he sees fit.
Best Podcasts If You Like Zoë Sharp:
Public Display of Imagination – Zoë Sharp: Talking about her novel ‘Bones In The River’, Zoë Sharp breaks down the novel. Looking at her life up to that point, it’s an in-depth look into her career.
Second Sunday Books – Zoë Sharp: This time Zoë Sharp talks about her novel ‘Bad Turn’, looking at what went into the book. It’s also an interesting and informative analysis of where she gets her inspiration from.
The Crime Cafe – Zoë Sharp: This is a brief interview with Sharp, offering another light-hearted look into her world. Fun and entertaining, it’s definitely a must for any fans of her as an author.
Read the illustrated blog and comment over on BestBooks.net.
The name of Linda Wilson is a well-known one in crime review circles, so I was very pleased that she wanted to take a look at Book No2 in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, BONES IN THE RIVER for Crime Review:
June 13 2020
Both your editors are huge fans of Martin Walker’s Bruno chief of police series that’s set in the Dordogne. Sharon Wheeler enjoyedA Shooting at Chateau Rock, although it’s not the best in the series by some way and has a tendency to plod via lots of tasty meals and Bruno building a hen house. Faintly bemusing, though, was the presence of a long-standing mate of Linda Wilson’s, who was piloting a chopper! And we were equally surprised by an appearance from our dear friend Ayo Onatade, who has a guest spot as a pathologist inBones in the Riverby Zoë Sharp. Yes, we know it’s common in crime fic, but it always brings us up short! As for the book, which is set amidst the annual Appleby Fair, Linda says it’s intelligent and cleverly written, with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns like a true Cumbrian road.
ReviewEvery year, the Cumbrian village of Appleby-in-Westmoreland plays host to the annual gathering of the Gypsy and Traveller community. This is an event not without controversy and there is something of an uneasy relationship between locals and the fairgoers. This year tensions are running high for more dramatic reasons than usual.
Members of the travelling community are being questioned by the police over the disappearance of a local boy and the discovery of his damaged bike in a skip, with forensic evidence that links back to one of the Gypsies. Vano Smith claims he found the bike by the side of the road but wasn’t involved in any hit and run.
Then matters worsen when a body is discovered in a makeshift grave partly collapsed into the river near the spot where the Gypsies bring their horses to be washed. Inevitably, suspicion falls on the Gypsy and Traveller community. The police are keen not to inflame local tensions, but that’s a big ask when the body of the missing boy is found in the river and is believed to be the victim of a hit and run.
DC Nick Weston and Crime Scene Investigator Grace McColl are required to navigate the tensions riding high in Appleby as well as the inevitable internal stresses of both investigations. Grace’s boss, head CSI Chris Blenkinship, isn’t exactly her biggest fan and on this occasion, he’s dismayed to find that she’s picked up the hit and run case.
Grace is a dogged investigator with considerable flair and ingenuity when it comes to an examination of the evidence and is the force’s most skilled forensic specialist. And Blenkinship has good reason for his concern. It became clear very quickly that he was the person responsible for the boy’s death when driving homes from a dinner party, over the legal limit for drinking and driving. A moment’s inattention was all that it took. Not wanting to jeopardise his career, Blenkinship took the decision to conceal the accident, a decision that will inevitably come back to haunt him, especially with Grace’s involvement.
This is the second outing for Weston and McColl and it’s every bit as good as their introduction in Dancing on the Grave. When I finished their debut I had hopes of this becoming a series and those hopes have been amply fulfilled. Appleby, with its influx of caravans, horses and traders, provides an atmospheric backdrop for another ably executed police thriller that positively oozes a sense of place, making it easy to picture the rolling hills and river valleys, the colourful caravans and their occupants. Zoë Sharp writes well and sympathetically of both townsfolk and incomers, with rights and wrongs on both sides.
As ever, there are surprises in store in the forensics, and Sharp pitches a good mix of plot-driven action and character development, with bags of tension on all sides. Every time I thought I’d got a handle on what had happened, a brisk wind blew across the fells, dispelling my theories and leaving me floundering. The final twist was one I didn’t see coming.
The only thing that came close to bouncing me out of the story was the introduction of the shrewd pathologist, Dr Ayo Onatade. Using the name of such a well-known figure in the world of crime fiction drove a horse and cart at speed through the fourth wall, although I did enjoy the mental images of my friend dealing briskly with all comers and dominating every scene in which she appeared with a force of personality and style that went further than appending her name to a fictional character. If anyone is capable of fighting crime with style, it’s Ayo!
Bones in the River is intelligent and cleverly written, with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns like a true Cumbrian road.
Reviewed 13 June 2020 by Linda Wilson
Read and comment on the full review over on Crime Review.
Day 3 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER is a review by Sarah Hardy at By The Letter Book Reviews. It is always fascinating to see what different reviewers pick up on in any book, and this was no exception:
It always horrifies me when you hear of hit and run accidents. I would like to think most of us would do the right thing if the unfortunate ever happened but sadly this isn’t always the case.
The fact that there are two deaths to investigate made this story much more intriguing. Especially as one happened years before. Throw into the equation that gypsies have set up home, the police, like most of us, can’t help to jump to conclusions as to who might be behind the deaths.
From the start the reader knows who the culprit is for the hit and run. I loved that we knew, adding to the tension of the already gripping story line and making me want to scream at the characters at who its was. The author spends time on the investigation and the leg work of interviewing. This leads to some shocking discoveries as well as getting to know the people under investigation better. Of which some had me disliking more whilst others my empathy increased.
BONES IN THE RIVER is a realistic crime thriller that kept me hooked throughout. The author makes every minute of the investigation interesting and I couldn’t wait to discover what was waiting for me with each new chapter. It is a story filled with hidden secrets and lies which made it all the more exciting as Grace and the team work hard in unveiling the truth. A tense, page turner of a read.
You can read the review or comment on it over on By The Letter Book Reviews.
New Zealander Judith Baxter has always been a Charlie Fox fan, so it was wonderful to read her Books And More Books review of the upcoming Lakes Crime Thriller and find she’s warming to Grace McColl and Nick Weston, too.
As part of Zoë Sharp’s Advance Reader Team, I am delighted to say I recently received a copy of her latest book in the Lake Thriller Trilogy,
This is book No 2 and once again we meet CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Watson whom we met in DANCING ON THE GRAVE. This time they are brought together on a couple of murders which may or may not be linked.
‘The traditional Appleby Horse Fair hosts the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe…’ And it is in this setting with the rivalry between the Travellers and locals that Ms Sharp sets the scene.
As she says “Half the businesses in town rub their hands in glee about all the extra income, and the other half shut up shop and treat it as an enforced holiday. It’s a well-known fact … it is the ideal time of year for settling scores.”
A child’s bicycle is found dumped in a skip at the side of the road. Grace McColl is called in when it is discovered there is blood on the frame, human blood. Enter Nick Watson, detective recently moved from London to this quiet region of the Fells. But is there a body? and to whom does the bike belong?
While investigating this, the body of an adult is thrown up by the fast-moving river. But there is no identification on him, and why would there be when it is determined that the body has been in the water for ten years or more?
So our protagonists are working on a missing child and a dead adult, both cases at the same time. And all the while in the background, Grace’s boss is working against her and actively confusing one of the cases on which she is working.
Apart from McColl and Weston we once again have the familiar characters of Pollock and Ty Frost and we are introduced to more characters such as Queenie and Bartley Smith, Vano Smith, the Elliots and their complicated family.
As always, the story is well-plotted, the characters well rounded and the plot is believable. And thanks to Ms Sharp for the research that leads to such a strong and believable background to this gripping story. Thank you; I really enjoyed reading about Travellers and their traditions.
I love all of Ms Sharp’s writing and while Charlie Fox will always be my favourite, the more I read of this pair the more I like them. I am looking forward to Book 3.
I recommend you get a copy of this without delay.
You can read Judith’s review and comment on her site, Books And More Books 2017.
“Most action writers are men, but it doesn’t mean women can’t write high action or realistic combat. Taylor Stevens (LIAR’S LEGACY) and Zoë Sharp (BAD TURN) have proven themselves with every book with the Vanessa Michael Monroe and Jack and Jill series for Stevens and the long-running Charlie Fox series for Sharp.”
‘I’ve always enjoyed action-packed thrillers, intriguing crime fiction, and complex mysteries, but I also enjoy cultural nuance, immersive settings, and deep relationships, more frequently found in literary, historical, or women’s fiction. When I set out to write The Ninja Daughter, I decided to write the book I wanted to read.
‘I wasn’t thinking about fitting into or busting out of a genre: I wanted to write a story about a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja with complex family issues and a mission to protect. I wanted to set my story in a city that could serve as a microcosm for national, social issues and a macrocosm for my character’s own cultural diversity. I wanted to tell a gritty, urban tale; and I wanted it to be action-packed and entertaining.
‘So how does a debut author tackle such a lofty goal? This one read the works of those who succeeded before her—not just with ninja, but with high-tech science, fringe medicine, professional sports, and serious social issues. Great writers tell stories that inform, entertain, and keep the pace. These were the stories I wanted to read.’
Read the rest of Tori’s great article over on Crime Reads.
There will always be some authors whose work you absolutely adore. As soon as you hear their latest book is available for pre-order, you can’t wait to stake your claim on a copy. You get hold of your book on publication day and lock yourself away to devour it almost non-stop. Woe betides anyone who dares to interrupt you for anything short of the house being on fire.
I know—I’ve been there. With my favourite authors, I love their voice so much I’d read their shopping lists if I could get hold of them without coming across as a creepy stalker type.
And even then it might be worth it…
But when it comes to authors I’ve never read before, I’m always happy to take recommendations. Personal—from people I know and whose reading tastes mirror my own—is always best. But this is no longer always the case.
A survey carried out last year by BrightLocal showed that a staggering 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal word-of-mouth. Not only that but:
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust the product.
- 86% of consumers read reviews before making a buying decision. (And if you go back to that 18-34-year-old age bracket, the figure rises to 95%.)
- 57% of consumers will use a business only if it has 4 or more stars.
- 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks.
So, if you’ve enjoyed a book and feel other people would, too, why not leave a review to help them not only find it, but have the confidence to give it a try? Your opinion matters, and carries just as much weight with potential readers as a conventional magazine or newspaper review.
Of course, whatever review you leave, it’s got to be an honest one. If you’re reading a series and didn’t enjoy the latest instalment as much as an earlier one, then say so. In fact, having a range of reviews (providing they’re predominantly positive, of course!) sometimes has more clout than only having five-star ones.
Reviews don’t need to be long or involved. They don’t need to examine the structure in great detail, deconstruct the narrative arc, or explore the underlying themes. (Some people enjoy going into this kind of depth, and it’s always fascinating for the author.)
A few sentences saying what you liked about the story and the characters works just fine. All reviews, short and long, help other lovers of books to decide what to read. After all, people read far faster than authors can possibly write, so there is always a desperate need for more fuel to feed the flames.
And reviews really help authors. Not only do they provide encouragement for those days when the words just will not come, but they also nudge sales along and help authors to be able to keep writing the books that you love.
So, would you be prepared to review books you’ve enjoyed on Amazon and goodreads? (Or, if you read on an ePub reader, on Barnes & Noble’s Nook site, or Apple Books, or Kobo?) Or maybe even a few lines on one of the crime-reading groups on Facebook?
If you’re already a regular reviewer, you’ll know exactly what to do, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?
How do I Review?
The first piece of advice I’d offer is always to write your review elsewhere and then copy and paste it into the review box on the appropriate site mentioned below. I know with reviews, or comments on blogs or other online forms, that it’s Sod’s Law, the longer the piece you’ve just written, the greater the likelihood you’ll press the Post button and your hard work will be eaten by the cyber gods, never to be seen again!
So, how to review:
On Amazon, go to the page of the book you want to review, scroll down the page and, on the left-hand side, you’ll find the star symbols and the [Write a customer review] button.
Click or tap the button, which will prompt you to sign in to your Amazon account, if you haven’t already done so. You’ll then get this screen to complete and fill in as you wish.
Goodreads helpfully provide full instructions:
On the book page on Apple Books, alongside the [Details] button is one for [Ratings and Reviews], as shown here for the first of my Lakeland trilogy, DANCING ON THE GRAVE:
Choose the [Ratings and Reviews] option, which gets you to this screen, allowing you to give a star rating. You can just rate a book one to five stars (one being low and five being high) and not leave a review. But, if you do, you’ll be asked to sign in to your account before you can go any further.
Scrolling down the book page on Kobo you’ll get to this section which invites you to share your thoughts and [Write your review].
And Barnes & Noble’s Nook book pages have a very similar option to be found by scrolling down the page to the [Write a review] button.
What kind of things do I say?
If you’ve read lots of book reviews, then you already have a good idea of what’s required. And, if you haven’t, just treat it like writing to a friend to tell him or her about the book you’ve just finished and why you think they ought to read it, too.
The only thing you don’t need to do is explain the premise of the story, as the book description on the page does that. And, please, don’t give away spoilers in the plot. Imagine reading a review of the movie The Sixth Sense, or The Usual Suspects, and it told you the big twist at the end before you’d had a chance to watch it for yourself.
It’s always a good idea to plan and write out your review in advance, so you can copy and paste it into the site. This saves the frustrating experience of having all your careful words disappear in a computer glitch.
- Decide the star rating for the book of 1 to maximum 5. This is not an index of quality, simply an indication of how much you personally liked the book.
- Think about a short title for your review that sums up what you think of the book.
Then choose a few of the following—or all of them if you want—and write in your own words:
- whether you liked the book
- what you liked most (or least)
- how you felt about the characters
- if you felt you could relate to them—did they seem like real people?
- if you felt the story kept you turning the pages
- if you recommend the book—and, if so, why?
Above all, your review should be honest, from the heart, and help other readers to discover new authors and new stories. And that, in turn, sells more books. So, everybody wins!
It’s perfectly acceptable for you to receive a free ARC so that you can produce your review. In fact, Amazon now requires you to mention this. So, if this has been the case, then at the end of your review, you should simply say: I received a free Advance Reader Copy of this book for review.
That’s it. Hope this has helped you with the What, Why, How and Where of reviewing. That just leaves…
Reviews on goodreads can be added anytime as you work your way through your To Be Read pile. They can be added for books that are not yet published or ones that are on pre-order. Reviews on the retailer sites, like Amazon and Apple, need to go up as soon after publication as possible, to give a book that initial boost.
If you like an author’s work, they would really appreciate you saying a few words about their books. But other readers will appreciate it even more.
This week’s Word of the Week is esprit d’escalier, which can be literally translated as ‘the wit of the staircase’ and means the predicament of thinking of the perfect response too late to use it. It apparently comes from a time when the smartest of Parisian gatherings happened in mansions that had their reception rooms one floor above the ground. Thus to think of a witty retort while on the stairs meant you had already left the party and the moment to use it was past.
Day4 of the DANCING ON THE GRAVE #BlogTour finds me at Literal Addiction’s Book Blasts and More page. Although the website tends to lean towards the paranormal genre in fiction, reviewer Sara Weiss was quickly hooked by this story:
“The author wrote an interesting blog the other day about where to start with reading her books because of how her characters have grown. Here’s a link if you are interested in the discussion. https://www.zoesharp.com/why-im-going-to-tell-people-not-to-read-my-books/ The reason I mention it, is because this book is the perfect place to start if Ms. Sharp is a new author to you.
I am ashamed to say that this is the first book I have read by this author. (Hangs my head in shame) I will certainly be reading more though, having read and loved this one.
Admittedly I did worry at the beginning when the police are called out to a shooting which involved a dead dog. Obviously, as an animal lover, I was horrified that anyone could shoot an animal but was it really a case for the police? It certainly had me intrigued though as to where the author was going to take the readers from that point onwards.
Well, I didn’t have to worry as what follows is a complex and enthralling read that had me on the edge of my seat. If anything, I love how the author plays with the reader. Giving them a false sense of security that you believe you are in for a tame crime story only to literally have the rug pulled from under you, leaving you breathless as to what is happening…