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by Zoe Sharp
Allison & Busby, May 2010
448 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749008156

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I suppose it's inevitable that thrillers featuring ex-military personnel yomping around America righting wrongs will be compared to Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Zoe Sharp's Charlie Fox is very much her own woman, though.

Charlie is ex-army and is now a bodyguard alongside former military boss and now lover Sean. Whereas Jack Reacher has no baggage, literally or metaphorically, the same can't be said for Charlie.

I admit to a slight pang of regret that Sharp has moved Charlie and Sean to the US. I'm sure it will introduce her to a wider public, but it's also a market over-populated with Reacher wannabes. Fortunately, though, Sharp is too good a writer to be classed in that category. She can mix the adventure with the intense personal stuff and Charlie has plenty of both on her plate.

Charlie and Sean are working for New York-based Armstrong-Meyer. They're asked to snatch Thomas Whitney from a Californian-based cult called Fourth Day, led by the charismatic Randall Bane. Five years ago, Whitney went into the cult to gain evidence that Bane was behind the death of his son Liam. He never came out. But when he's extracted from the compound, he claims Bane is innocent.

And here begins an roller-coaster ride of a book where you're never sure who's telling the truth. Sharp marshals a sparky cast with a confident hand, including a tenacious LA detective, a sinister government security man, cult members and eco-protesters.

Charlie and Sean's complex relationship and her troubled frame of mind is entwined with the plot. If you've missed some of the earlier novels you might be unsure what's going on at times, but suffice it to say, Charlie's miscarriage in a previous book ensures a rough ride for the couple all through and a cracking cliffhanger hints at more trouble ahead.

FOURTH DAY isn't a bog-standard thriller it's a game of cat and mouse where you're never sure who to trust or believe. And the fact that Sharp continues to test her main character, both professionally and personally, keeps this highly readable series crisp and fresh.

Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, August 2010

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