by Charlie Adhara
Series: Big Bad Wolf #5
Also in this series: The Wolf at the Door, Thrown to the Wolves, The Wolf at Bay
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: January 18, 2021
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Don’t miss this thrilling installment in Charlie Adhara’s suspenseful paranormal mystery series, Big Bad Wolf.
Agent Cooper Dayton never thought anything could be harder than solving murders. Until he had to plan a wedding.
After taking down an old adversary, Agent Cooper Dayton of the Bureau of Special Investigations has earned a break. Not that planning a wedding to his sexy shifter partner, Oliver Park, is necessarily stress free, but it’s better than worrying about the ominous warning, delivered months ago, that Cooper’s life is in danger.
When he’s dragged to an event by his family, Cooper braces for an awkward evening, but instead finds himself in the middle of an ugly feud between Park’s ex and a rebel pack leader. What was supposed to be a quick outing turns into a full-blown murder investigation after the pack leader ends up dead, Park’s ex goes missing, and Cooper and Park are sent a series of disturbing wedding gifts that are somehow connected to it all.
The list of potential suspects is long, and with the bodies piling up, Cooper must turn to the one person he trusts the least: the villain he’s already put behind bars once and who has nothing to lose by lying and everything to gain if Cooper is out of the picture—for good.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »murder, violence and description of dead bodies and crime scenes, inappropriate sexual relationship (in the past), drugging victims without consent, depression, PTSD, blackmail (of a secondary character), references to past abuse (of a secondary character) « Hide Spoiler
“Dreams change. People change. Please just don’t stop giving me the chance to change with you.”
I absolutely adore this series! Five books in, Oliver and Park feel like old friends, and I know to expect a good twisty mystery, lots of snarky humor, and a steamy and sweet relationship between them. This series can’t be read out of order, and this review will contain spoilers for previous books.
“Ignorance and influence are rarely as unrelated as they should be. You have a lot more power than you think. I’m not the only one who’s noticed.”
Cooper and Park have finally found a house that works for them – a bit of an architectural mess, but it sits on the edge of a forest – even if Park keeps trying to fill it up with decorative vases and other weird rich people decorations. Despite dire warnings from an old enemy, things are pretty quiet, and the only thing bugging Cooper lately is the anxiety of planning their wedding. Cooper doesn’t have that many friends and werewolves don’t really do the whole wedding thing, so a lot of traditional wedding advice feels useless. But when Park’s ex Eli unexpectedly turns up in DC, suddenly Cooper has a lot more to worry about that exactly what shade coral is. The past is catching up with Eli – and with Park and Cooper as well. But as the interconnectedness of the events surface, Cooper is left to wonder if it’s all a coincidence, or something more sinister.
“No matter what happened in the future, no one could take away the fact that imperfect Cooper Dayton had found his own perfect love. He’d never felt more stupidly lucky in his whole life.”
I adore book series that follow one couple, but it can often lead to some interesting narrative choices that jeopardize the couple’s HEA. There’s a quote in the beginning of this book about how people change over time and how their relationships change with them, and that’s what this series demonstrates expertly. This book isn’t really questioning their relationship, but more about Cooper reflecting about the course of their relationship and his hopes for their marriage. Cooper and Park met when they were both broken in different ways, and, like Cooper jokes, a lot of locations significant to their relationship are crime scenes. They’re healing together, but to Cooper, Park is revealing his essential goodness while Cooper is still, well, a sarcastic porcupine. Cooper wants Park to be truly happy, and he’s still not sure exactly what Park needs for that and how to provide that for him. Part of that is that Park still doesn’t talk much about werewolf things with him. But even though he still discounts himself, Cooper has a deep need to protect those around him, even those he’s only tangentially friends with, like Eli, and that’s something that Park appreciates. They’re so sweet (and, whoo, steamy) together, and I love how well their relationship, warts and all, is presented.
“Why does everyone keep implying I go places to find bodies? We’re just here to ask a few questions.”
In a large part, this book is the culmination of events from the past books. Cooper’s still dealing with the trauma from the initial attack that opened his eyes to the existence of werewolves, but at least now he admits he has PTSD and is seeing a therapist about it. Park is struggling with his history of being the Shepherd and how it affects their ability to do their jobs, not to mention the fact that his mom is still out there somewhere. One of the things I loved about this book was that we get more werewolf history, and especially a look at the interactions between the packs, WIP and the rebels. A large part of the book takes place at the zoo (and starts with Cooper finding Eli in a wolf exhibit, take that particular bit of symbolism how you will) and it’s fascinating how that ties in with the themes of the murder mystery – the need to court wealthy donors for money, the various cliques within the zoo, the ethics of caging wild animals. And of course, there’s plenty of humor, including continuous jokes from just about everybody that Cooper can’t go anywhere without finding a dead body (it’s so true, though).
“So the wolf world would be watching? Let them. Let them see this love. If anything made Cooper powerful enough to be feared, it was knowing he’d do anything to protect this.”
The book ends with the mystery wrapped up satisfactorily and with Park and Cooper on new, even firmer footing. There’s tantalizing hints of where the series will go next (please let there be more books, please!) and I cannot wait to see how Cooper and Park will deal with the next set of dead bodies.