For my first review for 2021, I have the honor of introducing you to Suleikha Snyder’s version of a genre mash-up with her latest book, Big Bad Wolf. It’s scheduled for release on January 26, so you have fewer than three weeks to build your appetite for the start to a bold, new series. I gained early access to it via my NetGalley account and am happy to say it has earned my gushing review.
The action kicks off in police procedural style with lawyers visiting an inmate who has admitted his guilt in the killing of six people. Members of a Russian drug ring, as it turns out, which is one reason why these lawyers have agreed to take the case–after all these were bad guys who deserved to die, even if vigilantism is frowned upon. The other reason is that the male protagonist has altered DNA. The female protagonist is the junior associate of the three, and one of the POV characters. And you get a clear sense of her perspective and insight right at the end of the first paragraph:
Joe Peluso was the monster in the closet, the creature you were warned about in fairy tales…and still, somehow, not the scariest white man Neha had encountered while doing her job. What passed for humanity these days terrified her far more than the things that went bump in the night.“Big Bad Wolf,” by Suleikha Snyder
With all that information packed in just the first paragraph, Snyder sets the scene efficiently and lets you know you, as the reader, are in for a non-stop ride. I loved every minute of it and stayed up deep into the night to finish it in one sitting.
The police procedural vibe develops into a shoot-em-up situation, so the two protagonists end up on the run together. Naturally, there’s an “only one bed” situation in their safe house, so the illicit romance that has been building over the early chapters deepens.
As the reader is introduced to more of the behind-the-scenes team working to fight the Russian mobsters and capitalize on the supernatural DNA they’ve either been born with or given, the scope of the story takes on overtones of a psychological thriller and secret superhero story.
Snyder’s writing packs a punch, and her commentary on a closely parallel world that has shifters seeking some kind of acceptance in a deeply polarized society easily reads as allegorical.
In fact, it wasn’t until I got to the end of the book that I realized this is the first book in a planned series–which only increased my excitement. I loved how only minor tweaks (authority-controlled drones police the streets) added a semi-futuristic/scifi sensibility to the story (I mean… there’s sophisticated gene editing happening in secret military installations to create these shifters, and they can be “chipped and snipped” at the end of their tour of duty so they neither shift nor procreate, so as far as I know, this really is scifi…), but the everyday person’s experience in the books would be easily recognizable to members of today’s society. And the incorporation of small cultural details–about Desi aunties who have a better network of connections than the CIA, and about the distinctions between Sikh and Hindu practices–both honor the author’s lived experiences, and educate the non-Desi reader … while enriching the overall story.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good shifter romance, but is tired of the same white girl perspective. Or just really wants to expand their understanding of what a kick-ass heroine (who doesn’t know what to do with a gun other than point it when she’s given one) can look like. This book is smart in all the best ways and I’m very much looking forward to the follow-on installments that are already in the works.