The Black Fox

Run for your life

Fiction - Thriller - Conspiracy
313 Pages
Reviewed on 02/18/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

In The Black Fox by Gordon Bickerstaff, scientist Gavin Shawlens has been targeted by the CIA for assassination for holding vital information that could bring the entire country to its knees. MI5 secret service captain Zoe Tampsin has been assigned to keep him alive and takes him underground until he can remember what is so valuable to the US government. A huge manhunt begins as not only the CIA trawl the UK to find them, but also British special forces who have been promised billions in military upgrades in exchange for Shawlens. With few weapons and even her own mentor trying to track them down, Zoe is facing her toughest mission yet and a decision that goes against all her instincts. But even she doesn't realize how far the intelligence services will go to flush them out.

I am not normally a fan of espionage novels but this author's skill in storytelling has certainly changed my mind. The plot is unique and fast paced with twists and turns throughout. I could not see how Zoe could escape from the dangerous situations, but somehow, she did. Every one of the many characters was so realistic, but all with personality flaws which made them all the more believable. The intricate details in the dialogue and narrative showed the author had researched his subject well. The deals that went on behind the closed doors of intelligence agencies were very interesting. I loved the relationship between Zoe and her brother Michael who knew her character so well; it was clear Zoe only allowed a few people close to her and he was definitely top of the list. Without giving anything away, I thought the scene between Karen and Zoe was a real tear-jerker. Zoe and Gavin had a great relationship too. They were complete opposite personalities and their exchanges were quite comical in parts as away from the subject of science, he wasn't the brightest or bravest. The tension and suspense were broken up cleverly with real emotional moments but also humour too. I highly recommend this novel but be prepared to go on a roller-coaster of never-ending action, thrills and intrigue.

Darryl Greer

The Black Fox is third in author Gordon Bickerstaff’s Lambeth Group Thriller series. Lead character is Zoe Tampsin, a feisty, exceptionally resourceful former British Special Services officer seconded to MI5 (also known as the Security Service), who is asked by her boss, Sir Milton Johnson, to babysit Dr. Gavin Shawlens. The scientist has been targeted by the CIA for assassination. The Company knows he has a secret hidden in the depths of his subconscious which, if it ever surfaced, would cause an international incident of monumental proportions. To justify itself to its British counterparts, the CIA maintains that Shawlens is a national security threat. Things get complicated when Sir Milton tells Zoe that no one, not even colleagues in her own organization, can know the details of her assignment. As the pressure to find Shawlens intensifies, Zoe finds herself pitted not only against the might of the CIA and resources available to it from other American security and military organizations, but those of her own country as well. Eventually, the pair is tracked down by her former mentor and they are surrounded, trapped in their own nightmare. As the hunters move in, Zoe must make the decision of a lifetime. If she is wrong, she will die with the man she has been entrusted to protect. If she is right, she will discover the secret locked in a vault in his memory and become a target for assassination herself.

Gordon Bickerstaff knows his stuff. If he doesn’t, he sure sounds convincing. The Black Fox covers operational matters pertaining to the CIA, Britain’s MI5, as well as military and law enforcement procedures. This is why it is such a riveting read. You tend to believe what’s going on, even though the subject matter is, in fact, unbelievable. The Black Fox is a joy to read, particularly if, like me, you are partial to thrillers in this sub-genre. Bickerstaff meanders seamlessly from the Oval Office in Washington to MI5 headquarters in Thames House, London, and to various other geographical locations in the UK and North America, keeping his readers enthralled at all times. Just when you think you’re getting a breather from this fast-paced thriller, something happens to get your adrenaline racing again. Just one word of caution: there are many characters and a lot of scenes on both sides of the Atlantic so you need to keep your wits about you. But this is a book you won’t want to put down.

Lex Allen

The Black Fox: Run For Your Life by Gordon Bickerstaff  is the third of a currently six-book Lambeth Group Series featuring the tough, special forces trained agent, Zoe Tampsin. In this novel, Zoe has received the impossible mission of protecting Gavin Shawlens, a scientist who unwittingly holds a sixty-year-old secret that, if revealed, would unleash a maelstrom of global anger and hostility. The CIA wants him silenced. Zoe must not only protect Shawlens, she also has to go "dark" and thereby become a target from her own organization while trying to discover the scientists' secret. She has one chance, but it's a chance fraught with danger and against her own hard-earned survival instincts. If she's wrong, they die. If she's right, and she discovers the secret, she becomes the new target. 

My first opportunity to read a novel in this series by Gordon Bickerstaff was memorable. I can't remember the last time I read a thriller that featured such a fantastic, true to life female lead. Zoe Tampsin and in fact all the characters are cleverly portrayed and arrayed within an intriguing plot line that continually provides a new clue or a new twist in the action. Truly an exciting page-turner; readers will have a difficult time stopping to eat or sleep. Especially near and dear to my reading heart is verisimilitude in all facets of the story. From character development, to weapons, to factual organizations and geography, Bickerstaff keeps a close eye on maintaining a sense of reality that most readers intuitively recognize. The Black Fox was my first Bickerstaff novel; it will most assuredly not be my last.

K.C. Finn

The Black Fox is a fast-paced work of thriller fiction penned by author Gordon Bickerstaff, and forms the third book in the Lambeth Group Thrillers Series. In this exciting instalment to the series, Zoe Tampsin takes on the task of hiding and guarding the scientist Gavin Shawlens from US agents who are seeking him out in the UK. Zoe, code-named the title’s ‘Black Fox’ for her superb work in Bosnia, weaves her way through a delicate web of secrets and ever-impending threats, even with the haphazard academic in tow. Gavin is experiencing memory blocks and terrifying nightmares, but he also holds the key to a devastating conspiracy that the USA doesn’t want uncovered. It’s up to Zoe to keep him alive and finally uncover the truth.

For thriller fans, author Gordon Bickerstaff creates a perfect recipe with all the ingredients needed to please his audience. Zoe Tampsin is a special agent with plenty of skills and smarts, stylized beauty, and an easily imagined prowess that makes her come to life like a Hollywood starlet. There’s a lot of work put into the emotional components of the tale, which add realism to the blockbuster plot and make the reading experience more credible overall. The dialogue was well written and clear in its exposition of the mysteries of the plot, and I found that the conspiracies and answers given were very satisfying to the overall journey. The Black Fox is certainly highly recommended for fans of high octane action novels and involved, stylish thrillers.

Samantha Gregory

The Black Fox: Run For Your Life by Gordon Bickerstaff is the story of Zoe Tampsin, a secret agent and special forces veteran who is tasked with protecting Gavin Shawlens. He is a scientist who has uncovered something he shouldn't have and is now a target. Zoe must fight to keep him alive, going into hiding with him while the bad guys hunt them down. The story covers both the United States and the United Kingdom as assassins are sent after Gavin. Gavin seems like an interesting character and his interactions with Zoe were fun. There are so many books that use CIA agents as the main characters, so this was a nice change of pace having MI5 instead.

Gordon Bickerstaff has written an interesting action thriller in The Black Fox: Run For Your Life. The character of Zoe is quite adept at what she does and has to pull out all the stops in order to protect Gavin. I thought the story moved at a good pace and the characters were well developed. I like that the story had a female action hero as opposed to the usual male one. I think it made the story better, opened it up to women to read, and Zoe was a great character. I think it will do well on the market with both men and women readers, but I think more so leaning toward women readers. I enjoyed The Black Fox and would like to read more from this writer in the future.