Sunday, March 2, 2014

First Drop (Charlie Fox Thriller, #4)First Drop by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I select my “crime fiction” readings mostly based on January Magazine’s “Best of the Year” recommendations. Zoe Sharp’s “First Drop” made the list in 2005. Cindy Chow, the reviewer, characterizes the novel as “brilliantly suspenseful yet emotionally affecting” and writes that “[it] is a stellar breakout for Sharp”. I beg to differ. The plot is suspenseful for about the first hundred pages; then it gets bogged in ridiculous attempts to twist it in every way possible. Maybe teen readers can find it emotionally affecting; grown-ups will find it hard to reconcile the high body count with a juvenile writing style.

The protagonist (and the narrator) is Charlotte “Charlie” Fox, a twenty-something British ex-military, who gets her first job in the U.S. as a bodyguard for a fifteen year old spoiled brat, the son of a top-notch computer programmer who is working on breakthrough software for stock market prediction (yeah, right). I applaud the refreshing idea of having a female equivalent of, say, Jack Reacher, starring in a thriller. Charlie’s skills in hand combat, marksmanship, and survival in general are first-rate. I would love, though, to see the author’s writing skills match Charlie’s skills as a bodyguard. Particularly irritating is the teenager-level writing in a long fragment of the novel where some characters suspect that they will soon be executed and have to prepare to die. The author writes “He rummaged through the little bowl, picking out four packets of Sweet’N Low which he emptied into his cup along with two packets of creamer. The he stirred the resultant muddy-colored gloop with one of the straws.” Now I know what to think about when preparing to be shot.

Four stars for Charlie Fox’ character, half a star for implementation, so the average is

Two stars.

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