Things are settling down a bit for Agents Cooper Drayton and Oliver Park of the Bureau of Special Investigations after their latest case. Now, the most stressful thing they are dealing with is wedding planning and Cooper’s awkwardness at spending some time with his family. But what starts as a routine visit to the zoo ends up with Oliver’s ex-boyfriend, Eli, back in the picture. Eli is in trouble, being blackmailed by his old rebel pack leader. Cooper and Park are determined to help Eli, but almost before they get started, the blackmailer is murdered.
Now, the case is getting even more complicated. Murders pile up, Eli disappears, weird packages are delivered, and a ghost from Copper’s past shows up as well. It is clear that this is more than the simple murder of a zookeeper; there are much larger wolf politics at play and someone clearly has a motive that Park and Cooper don’t yet understand. As they dig further into the case, however, Cooper and Park find things hitting closer to home than they ever expected, and before they know it, their lives are on the line as well.
Cry Wolf is the fifth book in Charlie Adhara’s excellent Big Bad Wolf series, and I think it is my favorite one since the series debut. This story brings together everything I love about these books. The mystery is exciting, the connection between Cooper and Park is so clear, and the overall lore is developing really well.
From a suspense end, I found this to be a great mystery. Adhara tends to really set the stage with her books, introducing a variety of characters and putting all the pieces in position, and then suddenly kicking things into high gear as the mystery comes together. It is a great balance of moving parts and this story I found particularly interesting. It brings together a murder mystery, but also components from both Park and Oliver’s pasts, which gives the story a lot of dimension. It is engaging and thrilling, with some really intense moments and I loved how it all comes together. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this story is that Adhara is also advancing the overall series plot, bringing together some big picture themes about the wolf politics. We have seen this slowly developing in earlier books, but here things really crystalize and we can see how a conflict is building between the three wolf factions — the packs, the rebels, and the WIP group. I think five books in, this really enhances the series, making it more than just a set of mysteries, but really adding an overarching plot that is building the series. I also loved seeing the interaction between Park’s ex, Eli, and Cooper. Eli loves to poke a bit at Cooper, and the two can sometimes seem at odds, but it is also clear how much Cooper cares for Eli and I am enjoying seeing their relationship develop.
The heart of this story is really Cooper and Park, however. I totally have a soft spot for the grumpy, prickly guy who gets all gooey for the man he loves. Cooper is antisocial and awkward and, at times, difficult to know. But boy does he love Park. I love the juxtaposition of the way Cooper is with others and the way he is with Park. There is a moment where Park notes that other people just see the cool Cooper, the one that seems unknowable, and that he loves that he can break down that facade. It turns into a super sexy scene where Park shows Cooper just how much he can make him lose his cool, but it applies outside of the bedroom, as well. For all of Cooper’s sense of reserve, he doesn’t hold back showing Park how much he loves him. He has come such a long way since the early books and I found this story to be the most romantic and sexy so far.
Since I am often critical of books that don’t get local details right, I want to be sure to give Adhara credit here for the wonderful job she does portraying one of the major settings of the story, the National Zoo in DC. I grew up going to the Zoo, we have been members for years, and I have probably been there 100 times over my life. So I know the place well and I have to say, Adhara really captures it spot on here. It is clear she is either very familiar, or has done some serious research, because everything was just right. From the description of the sea lion’s underwater exhibit, to the details about the Amazonia display, to the darkness of the reptile house, everything was about as close to perfect as I could have wanted. Bonus points for also capturing the creepiness of the National History Museum’s mammal hall, another of the story settings.
So I really enjoyed this latest installment and I feel like Adhara is putting all the pieces in place with Cooper and Park’s relationship, as well as the larger series plot. This one was exciting, suspenseful, and romantic, and I am so eager for more.