It is hard to get my head around the fact that Zoe Sharp has already written 10 Charlie Fox novels. It seems as if KILLER INSTINCT, the first in the series, was first published only a year or two ago. Sharp started off a winner with that initial effort and has never flagged since. Fox, a capable and believable private operative, is reliably and by turns a competent and sympathetic character who, at least to my eyes, seems ideal for film adaptation, but for the fact that any cinematic version of the series would be found wanting in light of the literary.
The preceding is particularly true of DIE EASY, the best book in the series to date. Here, Fox is at personal and professional loggerheads when she is sent to New Orleans and tasked by her employer, Armstrong-Meyer, with guarding Blake Dyer during a post-Katrina charity fundraiser. The problem is that her boss, Parker Armstrong, has partnered her with Sean Meyer, her former personal and professional partner. Fox does not feel that Meyer, who is on the short end of an extended recovery from a grievous head wound, is fit for duty. There are parts of Meyer’s memories and skillsets that are missing. Armstrong feels that the assignment, which is classified as one of minimal risk, will be perfect for breaking Meyer back into active participation with Armstrong-Meyer; Fox, who has watched Meyer’s recovery with a soldier’s eye, feels that he is more of a liability than an asset in the field.
"Sharp’s trademark strength...is action coupled with spot on tradecraft, both of which are in ample supply here."
Fox is also quietly reeling over the change in her relationship with Meyer. Once her lover, Meyer remembers Fox only as an antagonist. The simple truth is that she can no longer rely upon him to watch her back. At the same time, Fox’s remote past comes roaring back at her when she learns upon arriving in New Orleans that another bodyguard at the function is perhaps her greatest nemesis, a shadow of her past who participated in an incident that she is sworn to avenge. It soon becomes clear that what had been considered to be a “minimal risk” assignment is anything but for Dyer and the Armstrong-Meyer operatives.
When an ingenious robbery transforms itself into a deadly hostage situation, Fox is back to relying upon herself without the comfort of having Meyer by her side and at her back. As multiple agendas collide and allies become adversaries, Fox reaches a crossroad that could be fatal to her in more ways than one. By the end of the book, almost everything changes for Fox yet again, as an important crisis is resolved and she obtains a rough and long-delayed justice.
Sharp's trademark strength is action coupled with spot-on tradecraft, both of which are in ample supply here. At the same time, Fox’s precarious relationship with Meyer provides a dangerous counterbalance to the story, a ticking clock that may or may not wind down in time to put things right. While DIE EASY is complete in itself, its conclusion sets up a situation that has the potential to run through at least a few more installments in the series, and possibly beyond, giving Sharp’s fans much to anticipate.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 1, 2013