At the Sharp End . . .

The World of Zoë Sharp − Author of the Charlie Fox Thriller Series


I'm not a natural short story writer. I don't dash them off when I have a spare five minutes − I tend to need a commission and a deadline in order to get my brain into gear. Even better if the publisher dictates the subject or the theme but now and then an idea for a short story just pops up out of nowhere and I simply have to get it down on paper.

Some novelists, I know, began their careers exclusively by writing short stories and eventually decided that they needed more space, more freedom to develop their favourite characters. With me it was the other way round − I wrote my first novel when I was just a teenager and it came naturally to me to develop the story line and the characters at length. That first effort wasn't published but some very encouraging critiques from several generous editors encouraged me to keep on grafting.

My professional writing career took off in 2001 with the publication of the first Charlie Fox book, KILLER INSTINCT. It wasn't until 2003 that I published my first short story. Since then, I find myself increasingly being asked to submit stories. Two, ‘Served Cold’ and 'Lost And Found' have been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Short Story Dagger, while another, ‘Tell Me’, was longlisted, and turned into a short film.

FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection

FOX e-thology

FOX FIVE is an anthology (or should that be e-thology?) of stories all featuring ex-Special Forces soldier turned self-defence expert and bodyguard, Charlie Fox. Four stories have been published elsewhere in highly-praised anthologies and prestigious outlets such as Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

In 'A Bridge Too Far', we meet Charlie before she’s become a professional in the world of close protection. When she agrees to hang out with the local Dangerous Sports Club, she has no idea it will soon live up to its name.

'Postcards From Another Country' has Charlie guarding the ultra-rich Dempsey family against attempted assassination − no matter where the danger lies.

A finalist for the CWA Short Story Dagger, 'Served Cold' puts another tough woman centre stage − the mysterious Layla, with betrayal in her past and murder in her heart.

'Off Duty' finds Charlie taking time away from close protection after injury. She still finds trouble, even in an out-of-season health spa in the Catskill Mountains.

'Truth And Lies' is a brand new 11,500-word tale in which Charlie has to single-handedly extract a news team from a rapidly escalating war zone.

Also included: Excerpt from KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one, Meet Charlie Fox, Meet Zoë Sharp, info on the other books in the Charlie Fox series. Bonus material includes an excerpt from KILLER INSTINCT and a taster of each of the first ten books in the Charlie Fox series.

All in all, a lot of bedtime reading at a very modest price.

Ten Year Stretch

No Exit Press, April 2018
Edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller
Available in Kindle and paperback from: and
Also in EPUB format from leading retailers.

Ten Year Stretch

Twenty superb new crime stories have been commissioned specially to celebrate the tenth anniversary of CrimeFest, described by The Guardian as 'one of the fifty best festivals in the world'.

A star-studded international group of authors has come together in crime writing harmony to provide a killer cocktail for noir fans, in the form of Ten Year Stretch: Celebrating a Decade of Crime Fiction at CrimeFest.

I’ve been an attending author at CrimeFest since its inaugural event in Bristol when it was actually Left Coast Crime. Since then, I’ve hardly missed a year and I’m a huge fan of the festival. So, I was honoured to be invited to submit a story for Ten Year Stretch, although I confess I still hanker after the title that was originally suggested—Decade Bodies.

Published this month (April) by No Exit Press, the foreword is by international bestselling thriller writer Peter James. The editors are Martin Edwards, responsible for many award-winning anthologies, and Adrian Muller, CrimeFest co-founder.

All royalties are donated to the RNIB Talking Books Library.

The contributors to Ten Year Stretch are: Bill Beverly, Simon Brett, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Jeffery Deaver, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Peter Guttridge, Sophie Hannah, John Harvey, Mick Herron, Donna Moore, Caro Ramsay, Ian Rankin, James Sallis, Zoë Sharp, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Maj Sjowall, Michael Stanley and Andrew Taylor.

My own contribution is ‘Caught On Camera’, a snapshot of what might be our future in post-Brexit Britain where the best of the police force is now in private hands. It follows the start of newly-minted Detective Olivia Milton’s first day on the job, the ink still wet on her university police degree. She thinks she has a lot to offer her new boss, the highly experienced Lieutenant Job. She has a lot to learn.

Caught on Camera

Traffic was murder. Olivia sat simmering inside her vehicle, one of a stationary herd on the A40 eastbound. Part of the usual vast migration into London on a Monday morning. All going nowhere.

She clenched her fingers around the rim of the steering wheel, a useless gesture when the car was in self-drive anyway, but it gave her some small illusion of control where none existed.

"Time?" she snapped.

The in-dash unit responded promptly, although to Olivia’s ears its soothing female tones sounded ever so slightly smug. "The time is 08:48 and 26 seconds. The distance remaining to your destination is 4.9 miles. Your current speed is 0.0mph. At your current speed you will be unable to reach your destination by 09:00."

"Yeah, thanks for that," Olivia muttered. "Now tell me something I don’t know."

"I’m sorry, I don’t understand that question. Can you repeat it?"

"No." And before the computer could query that, she added quickly, "Mute audio."


Culprits: The Heist Was Only The Beginning
Polis Books, February 2018
Edited by Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips
Available in Kindle and paperback from: and
Also in EPUB format from leading retailers.

Culprits: The Heist Was Only The Beginning

This book is an anthology, but not in the usual way. The editors wrote the opening set-up – the heist and the complications that followed. The contributors wrote what happened next, and I’m proud to be part of it (my story: 'The Wife').

Some stories are all about the crime. These stories are about the maelstrom of what happens after…

A hard-bitten crew of professional thieves pull off the score of their lives, coming away with seven million in cash. Like any heist there are some unforeseen complications, and unfortunately they don’t get away without a few bodies dropping. But despite this, they getaway with the swag. Seven million. Enough to change their lives, make new identities, start fresh. But that’s when the real trouble begins…


"A well executed heist, like fine wine, pleasures the palate and can age well. In CULPRITS, liken the aftermath of the criminals from a heist to craft beer and a bumpy ride. Prepare to stay up all night!"

Cara Black, New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc series

"Brewer and Phillips have put together a book with nine distinct voices that moves along at the required rapid pace and, more importantly, well-written. I don’t think I can stress this enough, the writers participating in this heist gone wrong book (Brett Battles, Gar Anthony Haywood, Zoë Sharp, Manuel Ramos, Jessica Kaye, Joe Clifford and David Corbett) know their craft. The writers are like a heist crew, each capable at what they do and executing flawlessly at it. I liked how Sharp bent time in "The Wife", how Manuel Ramos took on the ghost of Jim Thompson in "Snake Farm", and the darkness of Joe Clifford’s "Eel Estevez".

"Brewer and Phillips’ Culprits is quite a lot of fun: the heist goes bad, the crew scatters, we root for them and hope they get out if it safely and when they don’t, you shrug your shoulders, "Yup, that’s what happens when a heist goes bad." If you are looking for a smart, entertaining book then Brewer and Phillips’ Culprits is it. Culprits is not the next great crime novel and I don’t think that was its intention, but it’s far better than that TV show you are binging or that comic book movie you want to go see."

David Nemeth, in Unlawful Acts

The Wife

Twenty-four Hours Earlier

Gracella arched away from the blade slicing down toward her back. The bite of it jerked at her wrists, then her arms flopped free. She tossed the remains of a severed zip tie and yanked the gag from her mouth. It came away in a ball of spit that she wiped inelegantly with the back of her hand.

"You okay, ma’am?"

A sheriff’s deputy crouched in front of her. Although her robe was gaping open his eyes were on her face, a fact which was unusual enough for Gracella to register. The badge on his uniform breast pocket read Martinez, and she realised she knew about him. Married, with twin daughters in first grade, she recalled. Off duty, his tastes ran to the boys in the local biker gangs, and slim-hipped bull riders when the circuit was in town.

She pulled the edges of the robe closer, even so. "Yes… gracias, José."


Murder Under The Oaks anthology

Winner of the Anthony Award 2016 for Best Anthology or Collection

Murder Under The Oaks
Edited by Art Taylor
Down And Out Books, July 2015
Available in paperback, Kindle and Epub via Down And Out Books
Available in paperback and Kindle edition from and

Murder Under The Oaks

I was honoured to be invited to contribute a brand new Charlie Fox short story—'Kill Me Again Slowly'— to 'Murder Under The Oaks' anthology, published in conjunction with Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, held in 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina—the City of Oaks. As with the convention itself, the anthology spreads a broad canopy across a wide range of crime writers from across the country and around the world—including both veteran writers and the brightest up-and-coming talents in the field.

Celebrating Bouchercon’s first-ever meeting in the American South, several of the stories in Murder Under The Oaks also draw on the region’s history and culture—including the birth of a secret society at the University of Virginia, a mystery from Edgar Allan Poe’s childhood days, and a series of less-than-welcome visits by everyone’s favourite hometown sheriff.

Action: Pulse Pounding Tales
Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1
Collected and edited by Matt Hilton
Sempre Vigile Press, May 2012
Available in Kindle edition
from and

The Night Butterflies

"Last name I woulda picked out for you is somethin’ lame as Tommy Renshaw," Manfrotti said, lifting the drink with the fruit and the parasol wedged amid the rapidly melting ice. He was a big man not coping well with the high humidity that came before the monsoons. "What made you go for that, for cryin’ out loud?"

The man who had become Tommy Renshaw shrugged and gave a fractional smile. "Possibly because it’s the last name you would have chosen," he said.

He, too, had a drink in front of him on the weathered table. A bottle of the local Bintang beer. Condensation ran down the outside as freely as the sweat along the fat man’s temples.

They were sitting in the little open bar, looking out over one of the black sand beaches that fringed the north side of Bali. It was the last place Renshaw had expected a man like Manfrotti to be found − too far from five-star resorts in the south of the island, or the nightclubs and bars near the airport at Kuta. Too far from the air conditioning and the kupu kupu malam − the so-called ‘night butterflies’ − that were his noted predilection.


Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance
Edited by Lee Child
Mulholland Books, April 2012
Available in multiple formats
from and
In his Introduction, Lee Child was kind enough to say:

"If I were a woman, I'd be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman, he'd be Zoë's main character, Charlie Fox."

For Lee Child's introduction to the anthology, take a look at publisher Mulholland Books' website, together with my account of how Lost and Found was conceived.

Lost And Found

He waits. No hardship there − he’s waited half his life. But now, tonight, finally you provide him with that perfect moment.

The one he’s been waiting for.

In the alley, in the dark, just the distant glitter of neon off wet concrete. And he’s so scared he can hardly grip the knife. But anger drives him. Anger closes his shaking fingers around it, flesh on bone.

He tries not to know what the blade will do.

But he knows. He’s seen it too many times. He remembers them as only a slur of violence, swirled with a lingering despair.

And he can’t remember a time before you. A time when he was innocent, trusting. You taught him misery and guilt, and he’s carried both through all seasons since. A burden with no respite.

Tonight, he hopes for respite.

Tonight, he hopes finally for peace.


Original Sins anthology

Rules of Engagement is now available in Kindle and Epub format

Original Sins: The Crime Writers' Association Anthology
Edited by Martin Edwards
Severn House Publishers Ltd, November 2010
A limited edition, signed by all 18 contributors,
is also available from Scorpion Press.

Rules of Engagement

A long time ago, when Angel was just starting out in the business, an old pro she met lurking in a doorway opposite the Russian embassy in Paris laid down the Rules of Engagement. 'Get in. Take the shot. Get out,' he'd said, with the careful solemnity of a man not quite sober at ten o'clock in the morning.

To this advice Angel had since added a bitter rider of her own.

Always get the money.


The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir

The Mammoth Book of
Best British Crime
Edited by Maxim Jakubowski
(UK) Constable & Robinson, March 2009

First published in A Hell of a Woman:
An Anthology of Female Noir

Edited by Megan Abbott, foreword by Val McDermid
Busted Flush Press, September 2007

'Served Cold' was nominated for a 2009 CWA Short Story Dagger

Served Cold

Layla's curse, as she saw it, was that she had an utterly fabulous body attached to an instantly forgettable face. It wasn't that she was ugly. Ugliness in itself stuck in the mind. It was simply that, from the neck upwards, she was plain. A bland plainness that encouraged male and female eyes alike to slide on past without pausing. Most failed to recall her easily at a second meeting.

From the neck down, though, that was a different story, and had been right from when she'd begun to blossom in eighth grade. Things had started burgeoning over the winter, when nobody noticed the unexpected explosion of curves. But when summer came, with its bathing suits and skinny tops and tight skirts, Layla suddenly became the most whispered-about girl in her class.


Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Criminal Tendencies

First published in
Criminal Tendencies - Great Crime Stories from Great Crime Writers
Edited by Lynne Patrick, Foreword by Mark Billingham
Crème de la Crime, April 2009

The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime
The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 8
Edited by Maxim Jakubowski, April 2011

Off Duty

The guy who'd just tried to kill me didn't look like much. From the fleeting glimpse I'd caught of him behind the wheel of his brand new soft-top Cadillac, he was short, with less hair than he'd like on his head and more than anyone could possibly want on his chest and forearms.

That was as much as I could tell before I was throwing myself sideways. The front wheel of the Buell skittered on the loose gravel shoulder of the road, sending a vicious shimmy up through the headstock into my arms. I nearly dropped the damn bike there and then, and that was what pissed me off the most.


The Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries ID:Crimes of Identity

The Mammoth Book of
Best British Mysteries
Edited by Maxim Jakubowski
(UK) Constable & Robinson, March 2008
(US) Running Press, April 2008

First published in ID: Crimes of Identity
Edited by Martin Edwards
Comma Press, July 2006

Tell Me

'So, where is she?'

CSI Grace McColl ducked under the taped cordon at the edge of the crime scene and showed her ID to the uniformed constable stationed there. The policeman jerked his head in the direction of the band shelter as she signed the log.

'You'll have your work cut out with this one, though,' he said.


Candis Magazine Camellia Journal

Candis Magazine
October 2007

First published in Camellia Journal,
house journal of Duncan Lawrie plc
January 2007

The Getaway

Lenny Bright sat opposite the Holland and Seagrave Building Society in a gunmetal grey Honda Accord with the engine running. He hadn't taken his eyes off the front door for the last twenty minutes and right at that moment he would have sold his soul for a cigarette.

Lenny's cigarettes, together with a cheap disposable lighter, were in the inside pocket of his black bomber jacket, but he knew it was more than his life was worth to reach for them. He couldn't even fall back on another nervous habit, chewing his fingernails, on account of the string-back driving gloves he'd been told to wear.


First Drop US Paperback
First Drop paperback, US Edition
St Martin's Press/Dunne, August 2007
(all-new Charlie Fox short story written specially for
mass-market paperback edition of First Drop)

Postcards From Another Country

Somebody once said that the rich are another country − they do things differently there. It didn't take me very long working in close protection to realise that was true. Hell, some of them were a different planet.

The Dempsey family were old money and that put them at the outer reaches of the solar system as far as real-world living was concerned. Personal danger came a distant second to social disgrace, which was always going to make life tough for those of us tasked to keep them from harm.


Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Green for Danger (CWA)

First published in Green for Danger
Official Anthology of
the Crime Writers' Association
Edited by Martin Edwards
Do-Not-Press, October 2003

A Bridge Too Far

I watched with a kind of horrified fascination as the boy climbed onto the narrow parapet. Below his feet the elongated brick arches of the old viaduct stretched, so I'd been told, exactly one hundred and twenty-three feet to the ground. He balanced on the crumbling brickwork at the edge, casual and unconcerned.

My God, I thought. He's going to do it. He's actually going to jump.