Desert Isle Keeper
Cry Wolf is the fifth instalment of Charlie Adhara’s paranormal/romantic suspense Big Bad Wolf series, and I started reading it with mixed feelings; eagerness at the thought of another story featuring Cooper and Park, and sadness at the thought of having to say goodbye to them, because I thought this was to be the final book in the series. But having finished it, I’m now hopeful that we’re going to be gifted with yet more stories set in this world, because Cry Wolf sets up some extremely interesting potential plotlines, especially in relation to the things we learn about the hierarchy of wolf society, reminds us of a number of important unanswered questions, AND brings back a charismatic secondary character who – it seems to me – is crying out for an HEA of his own. So please, Ms. Adhara, can we have some more?
Note: Minor spoilers ahead for previous books in the series.
At the very end of Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, the newly engaged Cooper and Park received the unsettling news that Dr. Emily Freeman, the scientist who absconded with scientific proof of the existence of werewolves at the end of Thrown to the Wolves, had broken into their apartment, surrendered herself into custody and is refusing to speak to anyone but Cooper. Cry Wolf opens a week later as Cooper goes to see her; she tells him he’s in great danger and says she’ll tell him who’s coming for him in exchange for a deal that will grant her a new identity and see her released without charge. When Cooper doesn’t show a great deal of concern she takes great delight in taunting him about how little he really knows about werewolves and their way of life, and then clams up.
Eventually, Cooper, Park and their boss dismiss Freeman’s claims as just another attempt to manipulate Cooper, meaning he can get back to quietly freaking out about planning his and Park’s wedding. Marriage isn’t a thing in the werewolf community, but Park is so head-over-heels in love with Cooper, he’ll do whatever it takes to make him happy and enthusiastically accepted his proposal. But being unfamiliar with the concept of weddings and how to actually go about getting married, Park has left all the planning up to Cooper, who wants it to be perfect and is practically paralysed into indecision as a result. (Gah! – he luuuuuurves Park so damn much and he wants to show that he knows what a big statement Park is making by undergoing such a very human ritual, but how does he say that with flowers? Or a ring? Or a big wedding? Or a minutely curated guest list? Or a hundred other possibilities he really can’t decide on?)
The reappearance of Eli, Park’s ex, gives Cooper something else to think about. Eli is being blackmailed by someone from the distant past he’s worked hard to put behind him, someone from his days running with rebel packs who betrayed him horribly, leaving him trapped in fur with people who kept him in chains until the Park pack found him, rescued him and took him in. It all happened years ago, but Eli recently received a letter threatening to send evidence of his involvement to the big packs he and his fellow rebels stole from unless Eli pays him. Refusing to let this person control him again, Eli has tracked him down and discovered that he’s working as – of all things – a zookeeper in DC, and he asks Cooper for his help in finding the evidence, which he suspects is hidden somewhere at the zoo.
Cooper and Park visit the zoo next day to see what they can find out and it’s not long before they’re up to their necks in trouble. The body of Eli’s blackmailer is found floating in the sea lion pool, four long slashes on his torso that remind Cooper uncomfortably of those on his own body, the face a horrific rictus of elongated bone and tightly stretched skin that is neither man nor wolf. Eli goes into hiding, not prepared to take the rap for something he didn’t do, leaving Cooper and Park even more determined to help him and prove his innocence. But trouble seems to follow them, in the form of yet more strangely part-transformed dead wolves, and a nosy FBI agent – who happens to be Cooper’s ex-partner… and ex-lover.
Charlie Adhara once again delivers a clever, fast-moving, intriguing and twisty mystery that is full of red herrings, suspicious characters and dead ends, while continuing to expand the world she’s created, bringing in wolf lore and mythology, setting up a three-way power struggle between the ruling packs, the rebels and the WIP (Wolf Independence Party) – and placing Cooper right in the middle of it. And she combines all this with some truly stellar character and relationship development, skilfully eschewing the sort of manufactured drama that sometimes occurs in series featuring an established couple. Cooper is a complex and endearing PoV character, and his evolution throughout the entire series has been spectacular; he’s still very much the man we met in The Wolf at the Door – prickly, sarcastic, and socially awkward – but while he remains those things, he’s become someone who has learned to face his insecurities and to communicate fully and honestly with his partner. It’s been an amazing journey and I’ve adored watching his transformation from that insular loner who didn’t realise his own worth to a man who loves and is loved utterly and completely, and has come to realise he’s stronger than he’d ever believed. And even though we never get into Park’s head, the author does a fantastic job of showing us how his character is evolving, too, learning to accept his own dark past and becoming a committed romantic partner. Cooper and Park are one of my favourite pairings, a real odd-couple whose differences and imperfections somehow make them a perfect fit. Through it all, Ms. Adhara is keeping this series fresh and exciting, and even after five books, I’m nowhere near tired of reading about these characters.
I also enjoyed the presence of Cooper’s family in this book, and watching him getting on so well with his brother Dean and building a relationship with his father. Things between them were somewhat fragile back in The Wolf at Bay, and neither of them is naturally inclined to openness, but it was lovely to watch Ed being so supportive and Cooper accepting it and getting to know him better.
Cry Wolf is a swoonworthy blend of humour, tenderness and heartfelt passion, a fantastic addition to the Big Bad Wolf series, and possibly my favourite of the lot. The mystery is brilliantly done and kept me fully engaged from start to finish, and I continue to adore Cooper and Park individually and as a couple; they’re flawed, multi-layered, loveable characters whose love for each other shines through no matter what. Given all the loose ends and potential plot threads that emerge in this book, I’m extremely hopeful that this isn’t the end, and am eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Cooper and Park’s adventures!