Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Michael Ferraiuolo
Length: 11 hours, 16 minutes
Chris Emmett, former SEAL and disgraced FBI agent, has one shot at freedom: infiltrate the Hive and figure out who is trying to kill Piker, the head of the organization. This means doing whatever it takes to get close to the enigmatic, distrustful, and cautious man. When Piker is confronted with a raving trespasser with too much knowledge about who he is and the recent threats to his criminal identity as Piker and his civilian identity as playboy Trent Worley, he is hesitant to kill him outright, but too cautious to do more than have him watched and vetted.
Given that Piker’s success in both his criminal and legitimate businesses is built on an overabundance of precaution, it’s a no-brainer that Piker and his best friend/consigliere, Natalie, want to surveil Chris within an inch of his life after he comes out of nowhere with declarations of wanting to help and protect Piker out of the goodness of his heart. But for Chris, time is not an option and making opportunities to earn enough of Piker’s trust, first get him into the Hive and then onto Piker’s personal security team, becomes his only option. However, once on the team, not only is Chris no closer to finding out who is behind the assassination attempts, but the more answers he gets, the more questions he finds. The biggest questions: who is he and who can he trust?
Overall, Blood and Bitcoin is an entertaining and enjoyable story. I really liked Piker and Chris. Piker is brilliant, mysterious, strong, funny, vindictive, tantalizing, and full of hidden depths that the story coyly hints at. Chris, however, seems like a hot mess of contradictions. On the one hand, he has the will, discipline, and focus not only to make it in the military, but to make it successfully through to become a SEAL. However, he can be almost fatally impulsive in the name of his “the ends justify the means” mentality. Impatience is definitely his Achilles’s heel, so it’s a good thing he can take an a$$-whooping. However, he’s also a loyal, brave smartass.
The first half of the book is Chris trying desperately to get Piker to trust him, while not being able to be honest with him, so of course, Piker is slow to trust. The next half deals with Chris trying to find out who put the hit on Piker, struggling with his attraction to Piker, dealing with the ramifications of some of his earlier actions, and uncovering more mysteries for every handful of answers he finds until he gets the ultimate “oh sh!t” answer with it’s inevitable fallout.
My major problem with the story is the pacing. To me, there are just one too many times where phrases, elements, or themes are repeated that seemed like filler or unnecessary repetition, slowing down the pace. Other times, particularly in the case of Piker/the Hive, it felt like it was meant to convey a menace that kept being undercut by their textual actions. For all the “coldness” and “believability” in Piker’s eyes when it comes to Chris’ belief that he will murder him, Piker’s behavior after the times he catches Chris in a lie/compromising action strains even suspension of disbelief after a while, especially given all the textual buildup to Piker’s ruthlessness/distrust. I know it’s supposed to indicate Chris’ “specialness,” but there needed to be a reckoning at least once before Chris came clean, in my opinion. To me, this is just one additional incident that the book didn’t need or might not have felt unnecessary if the pacing/editing had been tighter.
However, the narration by Michael Ferraiuolo is great. Frankly, his voice work for Chris is subtly hilarious. Chris has had this lifeline dangled in front of him only to discover once he’s on it that it’s attached to a dead, rotted tree, hanging off a cliff face, over a pit of baby vipers, and Ferraiuolo nails all the fear and frustration his FUBAR situation provokes. Piker/Trent (in my head canon “bitcoin batman”) is also great with his fabulous, airy voice to portray the carefree, party boy Trent and the seductively, danger-laced voice for Piker. Beyond his great voice work for the MCs, Ferraiuolo takes the time to make each secondary character a unique and important individual. With Witt populating her book with an array of people, like in the real world, Ferraiuolo’s talent takes it to another level; even when there are no textual “markers” per se, Ferraiuolo chooses voices that make each character easy to remember and recognizable. So even if I hadn’t heard from that character for hours, I could easily place who they were, which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially in a book this long.
Overall, I really did like the story, but pacing (especially in longer stories) just happens to be one of my pet peeves. For instance, I like slow burns and I like cat and mouse. I also don’t mind exposition heavy/info dumpy sections, but all are crucial elements of pacing and depending on how much they play a role in the plot development, they can combine to create a decent stumbling block to my overall enjoyment.
I haven’t read any of the other Criminal Delights collection of books, but it seems like a series based on ambiguity and blurred lines, and as far as reader appeal, Blood and Bitcoin will fit right in. For me, I recommend the book and I definitely recommend the audio. However, my recommendation comes with the following caveats: How morally ambiguous do you like your MCs? If you’re looking for the “twisted” of side of the Criminal Delights books, Blood and Bitcoin may not be for you unless you think a bit of voyeurism is twisted or that Chris and Piker are twisted for being thrill junkies who get off on danger. Additionally, Piker is more a grey hat than black hat if you like your MCs a bit darker. How slow do you like your burn, and do you like your heat coming from the MCs having sex with other people, including women? Can you deal with there being way less blood in your criminal delight and more corporate espionage/market manipulation, etc.?
Overall, I’m not sure how “dark” this book is, but I think it’s a very good story that a lot of people will enjoy reading and many more will love hearing.