Rating: 4.75 stars
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During the Vietnam War, biological weapons led to the spread of a virus that caused mass deaths throughout the world. Scientist found a vaccine, but on certain people a mutation within the virus became activated by the vaccine, leading to altered DNA. These changes led to the birth of an entirely new species, called Therians. These Therians are part human and part shifter of a variety of types.
Though they retain their human side upon shifting, the Therian size and strength in animal form makes many people wary. Many humans also fear and hate the Therians for being different. To keep control over the chaos, the U.S. government started a Therian database, requiring them all to be registered and marked. They also developed the Therian Human Intelligence, Recon, Defense Squadron (THIRDS). THIRDS is a military organization of elite agents, both human and Therian, who work to uphold the law without prejudice against either species.
Dex Daley works for the Human Police Force (HPF) as a detective. He loves his job, but the last year has been hell as he just testified against his partner for killing an unarmed Therian. Dex is shocked by the hatred he experiences for speaking out in defense of the Therian, especially when much it comes from his fellow HPF agents. Dex has always loved his job, but when they are clear they no longer want him and an opportunity comes to be a part of THIRDS, it might turn out to be the new start he needs.
Dex is especially pleased because it will be a family affair. His father is a Sergeant with THIRDS and his brother, Cael, is a Therian agent on the team. But Dex quickly realizes he is walking into a complicated situation as the team lost a member and are still recovering emotionally from Gabe’s death. In particular, Gabe’s partner and team leader, Sloane Brodie, clearly is still not over Gabe’s death, nor is he interested in having Dex as a new partner. A bad first impression doesn’t help the situation and Dex has a tense time with both Sloane and the rest of the team.
Dex is thrown right into the action when his team is called to investigate the death of a prominent HumaniTherian leader. The man was killed in his own home and all signs point to a Felid Therian, but there are no clues as to who caused the murder. Coupled with some other deaths of Therian supporters, it seems likely it is all the work of the same killer.
Dex and his team continue to work to find the killer, but with little success. Along the way, Dex slowly becomes part of the team, beginning to fit in with his teammates and even growing closer to Sloane. In fact, there is clearly an attraction growing between the two men, but one both know they should avoid. A relationship between teammates means one of the will be reassigned and Sloane is still clearly not over Gabe’s death either.
As the team continues to pursue the killer, the leads all begin to point in a surprising direction. The closer they get to figuring out what is going on, the more danger they face. Dex, Sloane, and the THIRDS team are getting close to solving the case, but it may cost them their lives, especially when things get personal.
Hell & High Water is the first book in Charlie Cochet’s new THIRDS series and I am so excited about this one. I will admit to being a little uncertain before I picked this one up. Cochet writes absolutely amazing historicals and she really is a master of books set in the early 20th century. So I wondered about the transition from historical to not only a contemporary/alternate world story, but also a paranormal universe. But I am thrilled to say that Cochet really succeeds here, giving us a creative story with lots of action and fabulous world building.
One of the things that always impresses me with Cochet’s writing is her attention to detail in the world building. She manages to capture those small elements that make the world come alive and everything seem so real and perfectly placed. Cochet takes that same attention to detail she uses in her historicals and applies them here to the fabulous world she has created. The book begins with a little background before the story officially starts, catching us up with how the Therians came to be and giving us background on THIRDS. It is just the right amount of information to give a good foundation for starting the story, while still letting us discover things along the way. Cochet really does a wonderful job developing both this alternate world with its more futuristic technology, along with the paranormal aspect of the Therians. We get wonderful detail on the weapons, the technology, the different types of Therians, the politics, all the little elements that make it seem so real. The world is so well fleshed out and is just so creative and really fascinating.
Dex and Sloane make an interesting pair, two strong willed stubborn men who are at odds from the start. Sloane is not interested in a new partner, not ready to move on from Gabe. He is gruff and prickly and gives Dex a hard time at the start. It takes Dex a while to prove himself, both to his team and to Sloane. It doesn’t help that Dex is a smartass and a prankster and always stirring things up. He is one of these guys who is always finding the glimmer of fun in rough situations, so he brings some levity and comic relief to things. It doesn’t take Dex long to win the team over, or at least most of him. He maintains a “feud” with Ash, a lion shifter and Sloane’s best friend, and watching the two of them make each other nuts is a lot of fun. I really liked Dex and enjoyed his lighthearted silliness combined with a serious dedication to his job and a true sense of caring about others. The relationship between these two guys develops slowly, and we end with more of an HFN than anything else, which makes sense given this is the start of a series. I assume that things will progress between them as the series continues.
Along with the relationship, the other focus of the story is the investigation. Cochet does a really nice job here as well. The case is interesting and I enjoyed watching the THIRDS team work through finding the murderer, slowly uncovering the bigger picture of what is going on. There is definitely a nice suspense element built in, and the ending is very exciting. I really like how Cochet wraps things up nicely for this story, but also opens up the future for the series as well.
So overall I am super excited about this new series. I love the creative new world Cochet develops here. It is clever and unique and I am so excited to see where things go as the series continues. So a great start and I really can’t wait for more.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.