Q: Tell us what the novel is about.
A: The jacket copy really sums it up:
Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.
Now she doesn’t have a choice.
Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.
Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:
Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.
At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.
For my own part, it’s a book about revenge, betrayal, and justice.
Q: How long did it take you to write the novel?
A: Far too long! I’ve had a bit of an enforced break from writing, and it was undeniably hard to get back into the mindset again. So, this probably took me well over a year to write, when normally I would complete a book in about 4-5 months.
Q: Did it take a lot of research?
A: Oh yes. Although I did travel to the Middle East a couple of years ago, obviously there were places I was not inclined to go. Nevertheless, I worked hard to get the right atmosphere and feel without over-describing any particular location. I worked very hard, also, on the cultural aspects of the book, and was enormously pleased, when I read out a section at Noir At The Bar in Toronto, just before Bouchercon, to have a guy from Saudi Arabia come up to me afterwards, shake my hand, and tell me I had it nailed. I also had a former CSI from the UK tell me she had seen numerous similar cases during her career. That kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.
Q: What inspired you to write this story?
A: I learned that the smuggling of ancient artifacts from the Middle East was a major source of terrorist funding, and that little or no provision had been made to prevent looting in Iraq—often perpetrated by the Iraqi people themselves—of important archaeological sites after the US-led invasion. I wanted to write about the abuses against women in all countries, and Charlie’s search for answers concerning her past. The book opens with fears that Sean has gone off the rails and may be on a mission of bloody revenge on Charlie’s behalf against one of the men who raped her when she was in the army. I wanted to put her in the position where she might possibly be called upon to protect one of those men. There were a lot of interesting psychological and emotional elements to give depth to what was also a fast-paced thriller.
Q: Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
A: I always like openings, because the start of the book is never the start of the story—it is where you choose to introduce the reader into the story. And I bear in mind that if the reader has looked at the jacket copy, they will already know something of the backstory to the plot, so why waste time telling them something they already know? For this reason, Charlie is already in Iraq as the book opens, in the morgue, looking at the corpse of one of her former comrades and trying not to be too grateful that he’s dead, because at the same time she’s worried that her former lover and boss, Sean, might be responsible. Setting that scene was one of my favourites.
There are others, too—the ambush of the military contractors’ vehicle in Basra, the second-hand story of the Iraqi woman in the clinic in Kuwait City, the stand-off in the remote farmyard on Saddleworth Moor and the conversation that follows with one of the other men who raped Charlie, her meetings with ageing Balkan gangster Gregor Venko in his Bulgarian stronghold, her clashes with Sean throughout the novel, and the denouement. In fact, there had to be something I enjoyed about every scene, or why include it?
Q: Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
A: That again is a hard question. There are a few returning characters in this novel, as well as the usual ones like Charlie, her boss Parker Armstrong, and of course Sean. I’ve revisited one guy from the second book, and another couple from book three, as well as Madeleine, who took over Sean’s old close-protection agency in the UK and has popped up from time to time along the series. Perhaps more than previously, Charlie is surrounded by strong women. I really liked the military contractor Charlie meets, Luisa Dawson, who developed very clearly on the page. I liked Najida, the Iraqi woman who only appeared briefly but still sticks in my mind. And Aubrey Hamilton, the CIA agent fighting a losing battle—Aubrey’s name, incidentally, came from a charity auction where she bid to be included in the novel. Finally, I grew really fond of Moe, the kid Charlie and Dawson hire in Kuwait City to be their fixer and guide into Iraq.