books

Charlie Cochet

Books

THIRDS: Hell & High Water (2014/2018)

Anthologies: Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015)


THIRDS

 

Hell & High Water (2014/2018)

Dexter Daley’s career in the human police force is over–he just doesn’t know it yet.

After testifying that his partner shot a unarmed teenager Therian in the back, he’s put on leave, and then beat up by his fellow officers. Eventually, he’s sent to THIRDS, the human-therian unit that deals with human-therian crime.

This story started out fantastic. I really liked Dex and his family.

Both (Dex’s) parents had been killed during the riots when he was five years old. He’d been adopted by his father’s friend and work partner, Anthony Maddock. A year later, his baby Therian brother was rescued and adopted.

Dex ends up on a team with both his father and his brother (it specifies this is allowed by regs, but dating relationships are not).

Dex is smart, and he see precisely how messed up the unit is from day one. I’m mentioning this, because it has bearing on problems I had with the story at the end.

He doesn’t want me here. If I stay, it means he has to leave Gabe behind, and he’s not ready to do that.

“Ash is a certified prick. He’s channeling his pain into anger that he takes out on whoever tries to step into Gabe’s shoes. Cael is in his own little world because he doesn’t want to face what happened.

“Calvin and Hobbs are seriously codependent on each other. We both know how dangerous that can be. We have protocols and right now, I’m not sure they’d adhere to them.

So the team is a mess. But they’re still sent out on missions and are currently working on a high profile serial murder case. But we’ll come back to that.

The world building was very interesting. Therians happened/were created during the Vietnam war from a bio-warfare experiment gone wrong. A great deal of thought was put into shifting, and the effect it would have on the Therian–there’s even a name for it: Post-Shift Trauma Care.

The tech was a bit iffy, but for the most part nothing off-the charts ridiculous.

About halfway through the story, one bit of world-building made me twitch. They talk about “Canidaes” (wolf shifers) and “Felids” (cat shifters) but then we have “Bear Therians”. Why? Why not Ursids? That really REALLY bugged me for some reason.

Moving along.

Remember that bit where Calvin & Hobbes are described as co-dependent? Yea, they put the rest of the team in danger because of it, just as Dex predicted might happen.

Although I feel like it’s a bit nit-picking, the place where the tech was off, it was really off.

“The Styx only has a few cameras inside and one toward the front entrance. Nothing out the back, since patrons aren’t supposed to exit that way. I’m going to run the last three months through Themis. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”

Themis played the video at high speed, tiny white squares popping up over every face it came across, while a narrow screen on the right side scrolled information, names, details, dates, times, addresses, anything related to the individuals who popped up on the screen.

A video search. Of three months of data. With facial identification and recognition. Takes just a few minutes.

(giggles)

That’s adorable.

And the reason it’s ridiculous is because in that same chapter we have this:

“Can you get Intel to cross-reference Gabe Pearce’s name with the victims?”

I got Intel to run Gabe’s name through Themis and cross-reference it with our victims like you asked.” Dex was surprised. He hadn’t expected the results so quickly.

So you’ve got the computing power for facial recognition and identification but you think it’s going to take a long time to cross reference text?

Nope. Not buying it.

As for the rest of it, I knew who the bad guy was almost immediately, as well as how he was doing the killing. And I just can’t believe that any of the characters would have been unable to think of that on their own. IT WAS OBVIOUS.

Anyway. Moving along once again.

Now we come to the romance. Of course Dex falls for his Team Leader, Sloane Brodie. And of course Brodie falls right back. (Because this is a romance after all.)

Initially the two act like it’s just sex and no big deal. Then came this conversation, towards the end (so perhaps a little spoilerly).

“Whatever happens between us has to stay between us, or one of us will be transferred to another team. You know that.”

Dex nodded. How the hell could he keep something like this from his dad? Worse, from Cael? It would break his brother’s heart if he found out Dex had kept secrets from him.

This really REALLY bothered me.

Dex is a straight shooter–it’s what got him into trouble on the human police force. Additionally, Dex saw precisely what the death of Sloan’s former partner (and lover) did to Sloan and to the team.

So why the HELL would he agree to go along with that? And I find it implausible that Tony didn’t see what was going on in EITHER case.

So, in summary, I was enjoying the story and the world-building and was planning to read the next book until Dex agrees to keep his relationship with Sloan secret–knowingly putting the team in danger.

No. I absolutely do not buy that AT ALL.

So I’m done.

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 5/10


Anthologies


Charmed and Dangerous: Ten Tales of Gay Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (2015) edited by Jordan Castillo Price

“Dim Sum Asylum” (2015) by Rhys Ford
“Swift and the Black Dog” (2015) by Ginn Hale
“A Queer Trade” (2015) by KJ Charles
“Magically Delicious” (2015) by Nicole Kimberling
“Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” (2015) by Jordan Castillo Price
“The Thirteenth Hex” (2015) by Jordan L Hawk
“The Soldati Prince” (2015) by Charlie Cochet
“One Hex Too Many” (2015) by Lou Harper
“Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” (2015) by Andrea Speed
“The Trouble With Hexes” (2015) by Astrid Amara

This is, like all anthologies, a variety of stories, some of which I enjoyed, one of which I utterly despised, and some of which were MEH. In other words, a good selection and variety.

“Dim Sum Asylum” (2015) by Rhys Ford

This is a parallel Earth story, where fae and magic exist in what is otherwise our modern world.

The main character is a cop who is half fae, and takes chances he shouldn’t, because he is still grieving the murder of his husband and their daughters in rioting.

No matter how small something was, if it had teeth and it was angry, it was something to be reckoned with.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Chinatown–especially the actual dragons guarding the area.

We’d tapped for backup on our phones as soon as we hit the roof, but dispatch hadn’t promised anything other best wishes and maybe a cup of hot coffee when we got back.

My only negative is that in most law enforcement agencies, there are reasons partners aren’t supposed to be involved, but perhaps magical police have different standards.

I’d read another story set in this world or with these characters.

“Swift and the Black Dog” (2015) by Ginn Hale

I’d categorize this more as straight-up fantasy with a generous helping of dystopia, and I really dislike dystopias, so this story wasn’t really for me.

That said, it was interesting. It tells of what happens to the heroes after the revolution.

“Wizard’s Ways aren’t like what they show in the films,” Jack replied. “It’s not like we sit down and decide. I didn’t think to myself, I’m gonna work magic by smoking and being kicked through a six-story window. My Way just came out of that.”

“A Queer Trade” (2015) by KJ Charles

I’ve read this before, and enjoyed it the second time through.

“Is that your stuff making that bloody noise?”

Tredarloe’s mouth dropped open. “You can hear it?”

“I can’t hear it. That’s the problem.” 

“Yes!” Tredarloe said. “That’s exactly what it’s meant to sound like!”

“It sounds like something you can’t hear?” Tredarloe just gave him a look, and Ned shrugged. “All right, yes. It sounds like something I can’t hear, and I’ve been not hearing it for three days.”

KJ Charles writes diverse British historicals–in this story one of the characters is Black, and buys and collects waste paper to sell. Racism exists in this world, as does homophobia, but they’re not the central parts of the story.

My point being the true past isn’t white-washed or treated as nicer than it was, but her characters have lives and adventures that are outside of their being Black or gay.

he’d learned his letters off a book of fairy tales, and if you could trust that, which you might as well after everything today, throwing magic stuff in rivers never worked for long.

I still really love that bit.

“Magically Delicious” (2015) by Nicole Kimberling

This is another parallel Earth story, where it’s our modern world but with magic and fae creatures.

The main character, Keith, is in a relationship with Gunther, a transmorgified snow-goblin who also works as a special agent, but they are NOT work partners.

Snow goblins—that is goblins who had not undergone transmogrification—looked like creatures of nightmare. They seemed to be made entirely of spiky, white bone. Blood red pits smoldered where their eyes should have been and they had more teeth than a barracuda, even when just born. Keith had now gazed upon many small, toothy creatures being held by proud parents or grandparents. 

He mentally crossed his fingers, hoping for a pink or blue hat that would help him figure out the gender, at least.

Because Gunther is a transmorgified snow-goblin, he’s unnaturally attractive, and so Keith sometimes feels insecure about their relationship, but it doesn’t actually cause Big Misunderstandings, which I very much appreciated.

Also, Gunther’s parents are adorable.

On the day that Gunther had moved in with Keith, she had taken Keith aside and pressed a small spiral notebook into his hand. Written on the pages were her precious, famous and well-guarded recipes for goblin favorites such as Cracked Hot-Pepper Marrow Bones, Sheep Skull Surprise (the surprise turned out to be extra eyeballs sewn into the sheep’s mouth), and Goblin-style Pig Trotters, which were traditionally served raw in a bowl of vinegar, and garnished with whole bulbs of garlic cut crosswise and seared on the edge of a heated scimitar. On the first page of the notebook she’d made a special note that Gunther, like all goblins, was sensitive to salt and could only abide the smallest amount on special occasions. Then she’d drawn a little, anatomically-correct heart.

That’s so cute.

I also like that Kieth doesn’t have magical powers–he is a food inspector, which is extremely unglamourous, but he knows that his job is important, and he enjoys it–but when Gunther is attacked, that doesn’t mean he won’t do everything he can to find out who hurt his boyfriend.

I’d definitely read another story about these two.

“Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns” (2015) by Jordan Castillo Price

This is a Halloween story with a couple who are both telepaths, but have different strengths and abilities.

They go to a theater where Vic experienced his first ghost–to see if the ghost is still there.

The ghost bit I liked. The rest of the story was kinda all over the place for me.

“The Thirteenth Hex” (2015) by Jordan L Hawk

I’ve read Jordan Hawk’s stories set in this world before and although they are interesting, they just aren’t really my thing.

They’re Gaslamp historicals, where it’s mostly our past, just with magic and witches and their familiars.

I think what I don’t like about these stories / this world is the sense of unavoidable fate where witches and their familiars are concerned.

I won’t avoid another of the stories set in their world if I come across one, but I also won’t seek them out.

“The Soldati Prince” (2015) by Charlie Cochet

This story I actually hated.

As noted in the previous story, I really dislike “fated mates” stories, and that’s what this is.

“Hey, if you want to be friends, that’s cool, but friends don’t kidnap each other or chain each other up. Okay, maybe some do, but why don’t we start small? Maybe grab a cup of coffee instead?”

UGH UGH UGH.

I really cannot stand stories where the characters seemingly have no free will in their lives and especially their relationships. And the manipulation of the goddess makes it clear that these two really didn’t have any choice in the matter, regardless of the words said.

I really did NOT see why either character “fell in love” with the other. The king is a jerk to Riley–and kinda also to everyone around him. Perhaps it’s just because he doesn’t like what the fates have decreed, which is fine, but he didn’t seen to change his behavior enough for me to see why Riley fell for him–and vice versa.

And all the conflict in the story seems like it was randomly manufactured by the gods or whomever for plot reasons and … GRRRR. The whole thing just made me angry.

“One Hex Too Many” (2015) by Lou Harper

The main character believes he’s cursed to lose all his partners, and so doesn’t want the new partner he’s assigned, because he doesn’t want anything to happen to the guy.

There were some things I really liked about this story–specifically many of the policing bits.

TV shows like ECD, New Skye and its many spin-offs made people think the workday of an extramundane investigator was full of car chases and deadly exchanges of magic. Oh, and spiffy gadgets that could tell you the perp’s magical specialization from a whiff of residuum. As if.

In reality, you rarely cast a serious spell on the job. The paperwork that followed was punitive. But I figured the realistic portrayal of a cop’s job would’ve made for boring television.

I did, however, have two problems with this story. First is the one I had with previous stories–there are reasons law enforcement officers aren’t supposed to be in romantic relationships with their partners. I don’t like that being thrown away by people who are supposed to be good law-enforcement officers.

Secondly, there’s this:

Out in the hallway he sighed with obvious relief. “Thanks, man. Leslie has a very strong charm. And I’m not even gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it,” he added in a rush.

If, perhaps, this was a novella or a full length book instead of a short story, I could have gotten past this. But no, Fox says (and believes) he’s straight. I just don’t see him jumping into bed with Mike after just a few days working with him. ESPECIALLY since they’re partners.

Which is too bad, because I quite liked the mystery part of the story.

“Josh of the Damned vs. The Bathroom of Doom” (2015) by Andrea Speed

This story is 100% batshit crazy.

It was a zombie feeding frenzy, but because they were hamsters it was adorable. 

That doesn’t mean it’s not amusing, because it is, but holy shit–this is NUTS.

You couldn’t get crazier, even if you fed meth and bath salts to an entire mental ward and set them loose at Burning Man. 

Mind you, I actually made Michael read this story because it’s so bonkers it was kinda hilarious.

“The Trouble With Hexes” (2015) by Astrid Amara

Tim shows up at his ex’s place of work, because he really doesn’t know where else to turn. Tim and Vincent broke up because Tim didn’t quite believe in the hexbreaking Vincent was supposed to be doing, and really didn’t like the damage Vincent was deliberately doing to himself for it.

Both had reasons to be unhappy with each other, but there was also a strong element of misunderstanding with that–Tim can’t see why Vincent is taking drugs that might well kill him just because he thinks it’s helping his aunt, and Vincent was hurt that Tim didn’t believe that what he was doing was important.

If there were hexes, then there could be ghosts. Vampires. Hell, a weight loss pill that worked. Anything was possible.

I actually guessed pretty quickly who the baddie was in this story, but that’s ok because I could also see why it was so difficult for Tim and Vincent to see that themselves. I also liked that both of them worked in their own ways to help people; Tim as a private investigator and Vincent as hex-breaker.

I’d definitely read more stories with these characters.

Publisher: JCP Books LLC
Rating: 8.5/10