Review of Hell & High Water, by Charlie Cochet

Hell & High WaterI bought a copy of Charlie Cochet‘s Hell & High Water.

Description from Goodreads:

When homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony helps send his partner away for murder, the consequences—and the media frenzy—aren’t far behind. He soon finds himself sans boyfriend, sans friends, and, after an unpleasant encounter in a parking garage after the trial, he’s lucky he doesn’t find himself sans teeth. Dex fears he’ll get transferred from the Human Police Force’s Sixth Precinct, or worse, get dismissed. Instead, his adoptive father—a sergeant at the Therian-Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron otherwise known as the THIRDS—pulls a few strings, and Dex gets recruited as a Defense Agent.

Dex is determined to get his life back on track and eager to get started in his new job. But his first meeting with Team Leader Sloane Brodie, who also happens to be his new jaguar Therian partner, turns disastrous. When the team is called to investigate the murders of three HumaniTherian activists, it soon becomes clear to Dex that getting his partner and the rest of the tightknit team to accept him will be a lot harder than catching the killer—and every bit as dangerous.

Oh, Dissappointment, we meet again. I was let down by this book. Not necessarily because it was a bad book, but because it wasn’t the book I wanted it to be, the book I expected it to be. I was expecting something like Cut & Run orCatch a Ghost. (Heck, Catch a Ghost is even book one of the Hell or High Waterseries, so thinking Hell & High Water would be similar isn’t that much of a stretch.) From the books blurb, I expected to watch two gruff, alpha males manage not to kill one another long enough to have a touch of hot steaming sex and maybe solve a mystery when they have their pants on. 

Nope, what I got was one brooding but fragile, emotionally damaged alpha male and one loud mouthed twink, who basically just talked incessantly and shook his ass at his partner until he gave in and fucked him. Now, I generally like both types of characters, but Dex didn’t start the book all light and airy-like. He just kind of randomly morphed into it about a third of the way in and I had a really hard time fitting the latter into the role of an elite soldier/police officer. (THIRDS is part of the military, but functions as a police force. I don’t know.) It might have worked had Dex not been so ridiculous about it all. He hides nothing. He filters nothing. He ignores all rules (of fraternisation and decorum). And that’s all on his first day.

In a way that was a big part of the problem. Most of us have had at least one first day at a new job. You’re nervous, right? Not good ‘ol Dex. He’s loud, proud and cocky. He joshes his new coworkers with abandon, makes lascivious jokes at and about them, plays pranks, and amazingly manages to garner a complete understanding of team dynamics in mere minutes.

No one gets angry though. He doesn’t get disciplined. He isn’t even seen as the type of employee an employer hustles out the door. He is apparently utterly immune to normal expectations of behaviour. Plus, that first day went on and on, with a lot happening. No day or two of orientation for the THIRDS. Nope, it’s right out into the field and giving orders for Dex, rookieness be damned.

Now, I’ll admit part of this is a personal issue. I hate when authors let some characters get away with disregarding proper respect of the chain of command or aggress on alpha characters without the consequences all other characters would face. It annoys me. It especially annoys me when whole plots are based on this ability. It doesn’t feel legitimate or believable. And the progression ofHell & High Water‘s plot hinges almost entirely on Dex’s ability to ‘charm’ (if that’s what such annoyances are called) his coworkers into accepting him. 

Then there are the murders to be solved. I knew who the bad guy was from practically chapter one. It really wasn’t that hard to figure out. I could have dealt with that if the book didn’t let itself fall into the common trap of not giving the characters the information they needed to figure it out on their own, so eventually the baddie has to stop being the smart, careful villain he’d been up to that point and for no discernible reason start being sloppy and basically announce himself, his past sins and his dastardly plan to the main character. This isn’t uncommon in fiction, but it’s still a pretty weak way to solve a mystery.

I don’t want to make it seem like the book’s all bad. It isn’t. There is a lot of good humor in it. The sex isn’t horrible. There are some fun side characters, with enough hints at depths worth exploring to grab a readers attention. (I was especially interested in seeing more of Cael and Ash’s friendship.) There are also some great lines in it. Like this one:

This isn’t the HPF. You’re in our world now and it’s scary, and ugly, and fucked up. They won’t pat you on the head and tell you how special you are because you have a black daddy and a Therian brother who proudly waves his rainbow flags with you. Here, you’re a freak like the rest of us, so don’t tell me how to do my job.

I think my issue was just that everything was too over the top. Dex’s personality was too big, Sloane and his team’s grief too all-consuming, the antagonist’s instability too obvious to have gone unnoticed. It was all just too much of what could have been a good thing.

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