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by Zoe Sharp
Piatkus, March 2003
370 pages
5.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749933801

Charlie Fox is house- and dog-sitting for a friend on the largely Asian Lavender Gardens estate. One night, she gets a frantic phone call from a neighbor that several teenagers have broken into their shed and her husband has run out to see what he can do to save his precious tools stored there. Charlie gets there in time to see him holding the door shut with the boys inside, and then, suddenly, the tines of a garden implement come through the door panel and impale Fariman. They then toss Molotov cocktails out, one of which causes the shed to catch fire. One of the young boys helps Charlie drag the man to safety, but he bolts as soon as the authorities arrive.

Teenage gangs are running rampant and frightening the residents, so they hire an expensive team of security experts to try and protect their property. Charlie, or Charlotte Foxwell, to give her her full name, now works in a gym and tries to keep a low profile, riding her motorcycle to work, but somehow, the security team finds out that she is ex-military. What they don't know is that she is also a crack shot and martial arts expert.

When Charlie wades in to help a teenage boy from being kicked to death by the hired thugs, she is also beaten but is saved by a strange Jeep Wrangler with Dutch license plates that seemingly appears out of nowhere. This is the second time she has seen it. The first time it apparently tried to run her down. The boy is the same one who had helped her the night of the fire. She comes face to face with the driver of the vehicle, and discovers that it is her old Army instructor, Sean Meyer. The teenaged tearaway is his kid brother. When Sean slows the car, Charlie runs for it. They have a past together and she doesn't trust him.

Then Fariman's son is murdered one night after he and Roger Meyer break into the gym and try to shoot her. Roger is suspected of the murder but he has fled and no one can find him. Charlie ahd Sean have to work together, especially after they find another dead body, to find the real murderer and absolve both Meyer brothers of any of the crimes.

This isn't a book I thought I'd like. I don't care about cars or motorcycles or guns or martial arts or people who spend hours in the gym, but this book grabbed me within the first few pages and I read it straight through. The settings are very visual and the characters, for the most part, are well drawn. Perhaps that's because Ms. Sharp is a photojournalist. I am certainly going to read the next in the series, and perhaps even go back and read the first, KILLER INSTINCT, although this book will stand on its own.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2003

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