I’ve been fascinated with the Middle East since I travelled there about four years ago, and I knew it was definitely somewhere I wanted to take Charlie, just to see how she would react to the very different culture and attitudes towards women. From everything I could gather, foreign women were often treated almost as a third gender—not quite so rigidly categorised as those native to the region, but not treated with quite so much outright suspicion as foreign men might be, either. It seemed to make Charlie’s role more fluid and interesting, as she tracks a missing (and possibly rogue) Sean from Kuwait into Iraq and then over the border into Jordan. This would be a story that faced Charlie with new challenges, at the same time as bringing back ghosts from her past, all bundled together in a semi-military environment of Private Military Contractors and mercenaries.  didn’t want to make this a very male book, however, so Charlie is working alongside a female PMC, Luisa Dawson, and comes into contact with Aubrey Hamilton, who is working for the CIA to stem the flow of looted antiquities out of the region. All the facts Aubrey quotes when she’s explaining her role to Charlie, and the reasons behind it, were taken from genuine reports and factual articles. Sometimes the truth really is so much more interesting than fiction. As the story developed, so did side characters, who grew out of the people I read about as I researched the book. Like the Iraqi woman, Najida, who is assaulted and then betrayed by both the system and her own culture. Strangely enough, I read out the chapter dealing with Najida’s story at a Noir At The Bar event in Harrogate, and was approached immediately afterwards by a Derbyshire CSI who said she’d come across numerous similar cases during her career. It’s not often that you extrapolate from the research and end up with a fictional story that really resonates for people, but it’s incredibly satisfying when it happens.

Fox Hunter: book 12 (the Charlie Fox crime thriller series)

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