Agent Cooper Dayton works for the Bureau of Special Investigations, a branch of the FBI focused on wolf crimes. The wolf population has come out to the government via a group known as The Trust, and so while most of the world has no idea shifters exist, the BSI is in charge of protecting people from their crimes. Cooper used to work for the FBI, but after he was attacked by a wolf while on a case, he came over to the BSI where he learned about a world he never knew existed.
When Cooper is asked to be part of a new initiative to partner BSI agents with The Trust to investigate crimes, he is very wary. Despite coming out, not much is known about wolves and Cooper has learned to distrust them given how dangerous they can be. But Cooper’s boss makes it clear he needs to go along, so Cooper is assigned a case working with wolf Oliver Park. There seems to be a serial killer in tiny Florence, Maine, and the men are sent to figure out who is behind the slaughtered hikers and the missing resident.
It takes Cooper a while to trust Park, especially since he keeps so much to himself. Cooper wonders whether Park has ulterior motives in the investigation, but as the two work together, Cooper begins to realize that the wolves are not nearly as bad as he was led to believe. The men become tentative friends, and the attraction Cooper has felt for Park since the beginning continues to flare. But the case continues to be complicated as more suspects and more victims pile up. Cooper and Park don’t know who to trust, and worse, it becomes clear that they are in the killer’s sights as well. Now Cooper and Park must figure out who is behind the killings in Florence before it is too late.
The Wolf at the Door is author Charlie Adhara’s debut book and I think she really hits it out of the park with this story. I found the mystery incredibly engaging and really liked the characters and the world the author has built.
Mystery can be a tricky genre as the plot needs to be complex enough to keep the reader engaged and guessing, but simple enough that everyone can follow along. Adhara really walks that line perfectly here as I found the mystery side of things incredibly well done and I was kept guessing about who was behind it all until almost the very end. What Adhara does so well here is slowly introduce the crime and the potential victims and suspects. There are a lot of characters in this small town and it would be easy for things to have become a jumbled mess. But instead, we are introduced to all the players a little at a time, giving us a nice cast of characters but never losing us along the way. I loved how the story plays with who is a victim and who is a suspect, and in many cases we don’t really know until it all shakes out at the end. Even as I was starting to figure out who was behind it all, the why and the bigger picture remained a mystery. But the best part is that once it was all revealed, I could totally follow all the clues that had been given to us along the way.
The relationship between Cooper and Park is really interesting as well. It is clear, almost from the start, that Cooper’s view of wolves has been very influenced by the BSI in general, and his partner in particular. Wolves are seen as the enemy, and Cooper is very slow to trust Park as a result. Even more, it is clear that Cooper has some major issues with showing any vulnerability or weakness. In the face of Park’s strength and confidence, Cooper has a tendency to lash out to sort of stake his ground. We know the attraction is there from the start, but it take a while before the guys come to a good place as friends and as lovers. What I liked, however, is that despite his occasional posturing, it is clear that Cooper trusts Park and depends on him, so we can see their bond forming from early in the book.
The story is told in single POV from Cooper’s viewpoint and I think that works particularly well here. We don’t get to know Park as well as Cooper, nor do we always know what he is thinking, but that is the point. He is very unknowable to Cooper, as are wolves in general, so he needs to be a little unknowable to us too. It allows us as readers to follow from where Cooper starts the story, wary of wolves and with some prejudice, to the place where he ends up as Cooper slowly learns more about them. Despite the fact that the romance is secondary to the mystery here, I really enjoyed these guys together and the story leaves them in a really good place. As this is the first in a series, I am excited to see how things continue between the men.
From a world building standpoint, I think things are interesting as well. As I said, this is a world where some people are aware of wolves and others have no idea they exist. While we do learn the basics about the shifters, a lot of it is rolled out so we learn along with Cooper. Again, I think this makes sense in that Cooper thinks he knows all about wolves, but soon realizes just how minimal his education has been.
I have two small issues here. One is that Cooper works for the BSI, an organization that no humans outside of the FBI really knows exist. Yet, he walks into situations identifying himself as “BSI” and no one ever questions him, asks for a badge, or seems bothered that he is investigating under the authority of an organization that doesn’t exist as far as they know. Also, and here is where I am going to sound SUPER nitpicky I know, but the first pages of the story take place while Cooper and his partner wrap a case in Bethesda, Maryland. Which happens to be about 30 minutes from my house, a place I worked for years, and someplace I go all the time (including dinner last night). So as any local will likely find with any book, there were a few things here that threw me out of the start of the story. For example, Cooper talks about sending the case to the Bethesda PD, which is something that doesn’t exist (we have County police around here). He rides the Metro (which the book spells “metro”) and is eating a sandwich on the train, which is against the rules of Metro and eating is incredibly rare and certainly not something a rule follower like Cooper would do. These are teeny tiny things I know and you all are probably rolling your eyes at me, but it threw me out of the story a few times early on, particularly given that these are easily google-able bits of information.
Ok, so that aside, I was really captured by this story, particularly given that it is Adhara’s debut book. The mystery was just incredibly well done and I found myself eager to continue this story, excited to figure out what was going on and who was behind it all. I really liked Cooper and Park together, and found that Cooper’s personal growth was really well done and gives great grounding to the story. The world Adhara has created has me really intrigued and I am very excited for more from this series.