Third Shift, Book #1
Heat Factor: They have a lot of sex, but there aren’t a ton of details
Character Chemistry: Immediate and explosive
Plot: Neha is on Joe’s legal team, working on his defense for taking out some Russian Bratva members—and when they get shot at in the courthouse, goes on the run with him
Overall: I mostly liked it, but it would be a stronger romance if it were leaner
Big Bad Wolf is both overtly political and tied to a particular moment in time—it pretty explicitly stems from leftist angst during the Trump presidency. Except in Snyder’s version of 2021, A) there are shifters and B) Republicans were a lot more successful at seizing power at the expense of democracy than they were in real life. Things are pretty grim; admittedly, I know this because all the characters think and talk about how grim things are, not because we see too much of the grimness (exception: the constant surveillance drones).
Enter Neha, lawyer and psychologist. She’s been tapped to join the defense team for Joe Peluso, who stands accused of murdering six Russian nationals; and even though they were gangsters, there are additional political forces at play. (Now that I’m typing this up, I realize that we never found out what any of those political forces actually were.) Anyways. The book starts out with scenes of Neha visiting Joe in jail and interviewing him, trying to get him to tell her *anything* that would help his defense. Joe, a classic self-loathing killer, refuses, because he deserves what he gets. He’s a monster, after all.
This opening sounds kind of boring written out like this, but trust me, it’s not. I was immediately sucked in and thought these scenes were really effective at establishing the chemistry between the characters. Joe, a wolf-shifter (created by the military for extra killing power), feels an immediate attraction to Neha, and decides that it’s the wolf in him. Not that he fights it—rather he embraces it by pushing up against her boundaries. (Neha, for her part, is drawn to Joe, but doesn’t frame it in visceral, animal terms.)
All of this is to say: I thought the physical chemistry between the characters was friggin’ fantastic, even before they started boning. And Snyder plays around with the fated mates trope in ways that I found interesting. Joe is definitely one of those heroes who tries to break up with the heroine like fifteen times because he’s a *monster* and *doesn’t deserve her*, but does finally accept that, uh, she has a say in the matter.
However. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this book. It’s not just the on-the-run/danger-banging plot that centers the story. There are also three (yes, 3!) other POV characters whose stories intersect with Neha and Joe’s. Plus, there’s this fancy group of paranormal operatives who get involved—they are actually the anchor for the series, but they aren’t introduced until well into the book, and we never learn why exactly they care about Joe and his woes with the Bratva. There’s a lot going on, and I wasn’t always sure exactly why. Obviously, some stuff is meant to be mysterious and resolved in later books (like, what is going on with the Russians), but I was also asking questions like, “How am I supposed to feel about the military?” and “Is the Apex program good or evil?” and “Why do these guys care what happens to Joe?” and “Why did the lawyer need to come to the cage match?” and “Why are we spending time with this charismatic, pansexual vampire?”
Maybe that’s my problem: I should want to spend even *more* time with the charismatic, pansexual vampire, but I just don’t. I wanted Joe and Neha’s story to be more fleshed out, so that the black moment hit harder and their reunion felt earned.
PS: The sequel, Pretty Little Lion, comes out in October, and features one of the leaders of the mysterious shifter organization. I’m curious to see if the world gets more fleshed out and some of my questions get answered.
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