THE LAST TIME SHE DIED By Zoe Sharp (Bookouture)
British writer Zoe Sharp is probably best known for her high octane novels about former soldier and professional bodyguard Charlie Fox. In their heyday, the Charlie Fox novels were ‘must reads’, but I thought that the more recent books tapered off a bit in their appeal, although they were still very readable.
Her non-Charlie Fox books have also been mixed, but the good news is that her latest novel, The Last Time She Died, is a strong return to form and is probably the best thing Zoe Sharp has done in a while.
The Last Time She Died revolves around Blake Claremont, who disappeared ten years ago when she was fifteen years old. No one ever reported her as missing, with her father, Gideon Fitzroy a former Member of Parliament and still influential figure in Derbyshire, saying that he was sure that she would come back. But those who buried her ten years ago know that she won’t be coming back. However, now that her father is dead, in a suspicious car accident, a woman calling herself Blake has returned. Is it really Blake, or an opportunist after her father’s money? Detective John Byron does not know if it is Blake or not, but he is surprised by the fear that she generates and when someone shoots at her on a winding rural road, he has to ask: who wants her dead?
There is plenty of mystery and suspense in this outstanding tale. From the disturbing opening pages, Zoe draws the reader in with consummate skill and keeps them interested as they join Byron in trying to work out what is happening. The frequently shifting viewpoint also helps to build the suspense, and Zoe is very good at misleading the reader and keeping them guessing.
The cast of characters are very nicely drawn, especially Blake and John Byron, but also the supporting cast of PC Jane Hudson and the young teenage step-daughter of Fitzroy, Lily. Byron is a prickly but engaging character, and it is interesting watching him grow and change as the details about why he is on leave gradually emerge.
As the story unfolds, Zoe ramps up the tension and suspense, and the book moves through some good twists and turns to an exciting and unexpected conclusion that kept me keenly turning the pages. The resolution is perhaps a little too neat and convenient, but it is hard to fault this very engaging and enjoyable crime novel.
Four stars out of five!
The Last Time She Died is released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 20 October 2021 in paperback and on Kindle, for ridiculously low price.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book.