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Book Review: Leader Murders 1-3, by Liv Olteano

Leader Murders 4

Leader Murders All

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Book 1: A Tooth For A Fang

Three days. Three dead bodies. One newly turned, broken-hearted lycan tracker to figure out the connection.

The one summer Rick Barton takes a vacation, all hell breaks loose. Running from an abusive relationship leads him into the arms of hard-nosed lycan Travis Chandler, who gives him little choice but to become a lycan too and join the Paranormal Bureau of Investigation. Out of options, Rick joins the weird organization, expecting some two weeks of training and an adjustment period. Tough luck, he doesn’t get either. On his first day, his new partner offers to promote him to field agent if they get mated – less time wasted on training, more time on the field, and considering Rick is the only tracker the Bureau has on hand when a wave of strange murders hits the community, time is of the essence.

Someone’s killing the leaders of the paranormal world and mutilating the bodies. Investigating and tracking clues is enough of a challenge, and Rick must contend with an impatient Council, Travis’s advances, and actually adjusting to being a lycan. Only one thing is certain: Rick’s new life promises plenty of interesting adventures—as long as he can survive.

Book 2: A Counselor Among Wolves

Five dead leaders, their bodies arranged in a pentagram. Treason, lies, and backstabbing. A make-believe affair that turns into a real mating.

Timothy Sands is a PBI counselor, half-fey, half-elf, with a secret crush on Herman Weiss, PBI director. As a new chapter is added to the Leader Murders, it is Weiss’s responsibility to investigate what seems an impossible-to-solve case. The other problem? Weiss is suffering from rages, and his only salvation lies in Tim’s emotional-grid-balancing skills. They only have to pretend to be a couple for Tim to use his talents, and he owes Weiss a big favor. Piece of cake, right?

The fey might be involved in the Leader Murders. Someone on the Council might be their ally, and another prominent PBI figure looks more and more suspicious as they investigate. The stakes are upped when Timothy’s father, the Fey King, threatens to leave the Council destitute if they don’t hand Timothy over to him. Weiss’s brilliant solution? Mating Timothy and forcing the Council into protecting him.

There’s only one small hitch in that plan: instead of protecting one, the Council might decide to get rid of two.

Book 3: A King and A Pawn

Bert Cooper’s life used to be great, until his sister turned out to be a traitor. Now Bert feels the whole pack looks on him with doubt and suspicion. To prove his loyalty, he volunteers to be the first ambassador at Fey Court, gathering information to finally solve the Leader Murders and punish those plotting against the Council and community. At least, that was the plan….

When Bert meets Sir William Matthew Sims, Court Interrogator, and one hell of a sexy man, life becomes a balancing act. And when the Fey King is assassinated, things become really messy.

Pack politics, fey politics, treason, suspicions of treason…. Bert has to choose between being ruled by his fears or standing up for what—and who—he believes in. And it might just break his heart.

~

Book 1: A Tooth For A Fang

Book – A Tooth For A Fang (Leader Murders #1)

Author – Liv Olteano

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 216

Cover – Moody and Gorgeous!

POV – 1st person, one character POV

Would I read it again – Yes

Genre – LGBT, Paranormal, Crime, Romance

.

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

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*Trigger warnings: the story deals with off-page domestic abuse of all forms, as well as mental abilities that could be, and are, compared to the control exercised during rape. It also deals with violent crimes and the sexual abuse of corpses (nothing on page)*

First off, you’ll see from my rating above ^ that I really liked this book, so I’m going to start with the negatives and just get them out of the way.

Editing. Gah! The editing. Okay, so it wasn’t awful and it wasn’t brilliant. It was in that limbo state in between, where just one more edit or one more swipe past the beta readers would have it in tip top condition. What was the problem? Missing words. That is the issue in a nutshell. Persistently, there are sentences with missing words with really screwed with my reading as I tried to figure out the meaning. Sometimes it was clear and the missing word was just an annoyance. But sometimes it was vitally important and made the sentence read awkward or confusing. There was also an issue with grammar (proper placement of commans and semi-colons etc) but the missing words was the real rub.

Examples:

My first summer vacation after a couple years of slavery, aka the corporate world, freedom tasted damn good.

Let’s tread the water before going for swimming, you know?

[…] to be one hell of ride.

Obviously, though these instances were really quite prolific, they didn’t hamper the storytelling at all. Although I didn’t like the use of the word “spazz” with is so ridiculously insulting, I do get that the irritation is personal and not something that all readers will agree with. There were also phrases or words that were used far too often – Balls deep. The smacking of lips. Heh. – All overdone.

Now, onto the positives. Yay.

Rick and Travis were great main characters. I could feel their chemistry and the dynamic they shared right from the start, when they first met. Though I do think Travis’ claiming was a douche move, I love the way that Rick dealt with it.

Poor little Rick is a feisty guy, but so emotionally damaged and I like that he shies away from the more emotional side of his relationship with Travis, not wanting to get his fingers burned or his heart broken again. The things that Mitch put him through are devastating, but sadly realistic. As is the way the author deals with Rick’s recovery of that domestic abuse. He constantly blames himself, considers it more his doing than Mitch’s and tries to excuse the behaviour, even when out of the relationship. Just as many real life abuse victims often do. Being his first serious relationship, on top of that, and lasting for many years has made it hard for him to trust or love easily and he’s become guarded. All of that stands as a block between him and Travis.

But, here’s the part I like best. Travis never pushes. He’s tall, big, gruff and surly, but he’s a big teddy bear on the inside. It’s so nice to see a big scary guy being used as the healer for Rick’s pain, reassuring him that he won’t be hurt again, that he has the love and support he needs, whenever he’s ready to accept it.

I also really loved the way that Rick dealt with the supernatural element. I mean, the entire concept of the PBI and how it operates is genius. It’s so professional, relatable and ordinary, with a dash of extraordinary, that it’s something we readers can easily picture and adapt to. That added element however, allows Rick some freak out moments, which are the natural reaction of most people who encounter the supernatural.

It was great how werewolves and lycans were differentiated as two different species and how each species was shown in a very realistic way. The way the “alpha voice” was used to take complete control over a person was disconcerting and I loved that Rick’s human nature tackled that view, but also that Travis never really wanted to use it against him, in important situations (like the S&M club). At the same time, the whole alpha voice stuff and the tracker ability Rick had really set these lycans apart from most other books in the genre.

Even the side characters – Amanda, Weiss, Naty, Lora, T – are actually really great to meet and discover. I loved them all. Each was something different, a little quirky and crazy in their own way, with their own problems. It will be nice to get to know some of them better in the future stories. I do have to say that I’m on the fence about Weiss, just as confused about his true nature as Rick is, while I share his sympathy for Amanda. If everything she says is true, with no extenuating circumstances (such as someone outside the mating controlling things) then I absolutely understand why she was pushed to the point of insanity and homicide. It’s no wonder she’s a little psycho.

Oh, and I really want to meet Garry along the way, to see what he is and how he’s living his new supernatural life with the PBI. I also really want to let Rick and Mitch meet again, now that he’s stronger, and finally confront his feelings of guilt and responsibility, to show Mitch that it was never Rick’s fault.

~

Overall, a brilliant, surprising twist on the werewolf theme.

The crime wasn’t predictable (though I’m usually quick to see the ‘solution’ coming) and the paranormal elements were handled in a very unique, intriguing way.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and explore where the Leader Murders take us.

~

Favourite Quotes

““Is this the part where you admit to being an alien and that you’ve infected me with your weird sperm that will make tiny aliens sprout out of my guts?””

“In the span of a couple of days, I’d gone from jobless single guy vacationing on the beach to lycan agent in training with a hot-as-hell boyfriend I couldn’t wait to grope. Perhaps my friend Garry had been right and this place really could turn one’s life around.”

“I’d never get over how intense he was when he wasn’t playing around. I just knew I’d never get over it. Never get over him. Sometimes you just knew while looking into someone’s eyes, like you knew while looking into the sky that it would rain. There’d be no clouds, no forecast announcing it, but something in the air, a frisky sort of scent on the wind and you’d just know. I just knew now, looking into his consuming gaze that no one else would manage to give me the butterflies and squeeze my heart like a vise just by looking at me. That nobody else would make the blood boil in my veins and my whole body sizzle. This was the Travis effect, and he wasn’t even playing dirty with his weird-ass alpha voice magic trick yet.”

“I felt him smile, the stretch of his lips against mine one of the most beautiful things ever. It was as if our hearts touched where our lips did, this brief overwhelming moment when everything was beautiful, light, soft and sweet – as amazing as our lips touching. His scent filled my soul to the point of overflowing and my heart shuddered as if struggled to keep up with the rush of being here like this.”

Book 2: A Counselor Among Wolves

Book – A Counselor Among Wolves (Leader Murders #2)

Author – Liv Olteano

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 230

Cover – Moody and Gorgeous!

POV – 1st person, one character POV

Would I read it again – Yes.

Genre – LGBT, Paranormal, Crime, Romance

.

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

.

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that this wasn’t about Rick and Travis again, but I was happy to see that Weiss and Tim were just as interesting. What a great way to continue the series!

The slant away from the crimes, for just a little while, was similar to how book 1 began with the romance and slowly drifted into the crime. But, just as the previous book did, the crimes slowly eeked their way into the main storyline and had a major impact on all involved. The way the crimes changed slightly, though still connected to the Leader Murders, was intriguing and a nice change, so that we were just dealing with the same instances, crimes and investigation of the first book. It was refreshing, for a serial killer series to take that risk and change things up.

Once again, I fell in love with both characters. I’d always been interested in Tim, since the previous book brought him into Travis and Rick’s storyline, but to get to delve deeper into his story was great. To learn what really happened between him and Travis, why and the consequences was very insightful. It was also really great to see a little vindication for Weiss, who got a really raw deal in book one.

Though I didn’t like the way Rick dealt with Weiss in this story, it really is understandable and true to his character. It was so great to see him and Travis together, in a much quieter, more loving session.

At the same time, the chemistry, the push and pull and the overall atmosphere when Weiss and Tim were together was brilliant. I really felt the constant, raw sexual tension, then the slow built to emotional connections. What was even better was to see how Alf took it all and how he accepted Tim into the family fold.

I really liked getting a closer glimpse into the werewolf and fey worlds. Book 1 introduced us to the entire supernatural world of PBI, but it mainly focused on the lycans, as that was what Travis and, eventually, Rick, were. So it was nice to learn more about the other species, the ways they differed and how that effected those around them.

Yes, on the down side, there were still missing words, grammar issues and a few repeated phrases (smacking of lips, nape instead of neck and -slash- words) but there were negligible. I could completely ignore them to get totally engrossed in the story.

From the way the couple were thrown together, for the reasons why, and the emotional chaos as they worked things out between them, there was never a moment I was willing to put this down to do anything else. The exploration of their pasts, the revelation of their secrets and the eventual progress of their relationship with each other kept me hooked from page one to the end.

~

Overall, it was a brilliant follow up to the previous book and gave enough of a build up that I just know I’m going to enjoy Bert’s story in book 3 just as much.

An action packed story full of sexual tension, danger and uncertainty. From beginning to end, it was a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions.

~

Favourite Quotes

“Looking on the bright side, I’d get to spend a lot of time with my crush. He was probably annoying, had smelly morning breath, and farted while he slept. After a week or two of that, I’d finally get over him.”

““We cool?”

He snorted. “Dunno about you, but I’m anything but cool. I’m not going to kill you yet, if that’s what you’re asking. Might change my mind by lunch, though.”

“There’s that to look forward to, then,” I commented.

“You look like a tiny, breakable thing, but you’re a pretty resilient bastard, aren’t you?”

I smiled. “I did fight my way out of Fey Court, Weiss. And it wasn’t a poetry competition.””

“I was that painfully lonely, the promise of his touch felt like salvation regardless of the reasons or end games. I gripped the shirt on his arms and bunched the fabric in my fists, pulling him even closer. It would hurt – somewhere down the road, this moment of mindless need would gut me. But at least I’d have the glorious memory of how all-consuming it was, for that one stupid second.”

“I wanted to protest but figured supposedly dead bodies shouldn’t be too picky about their means of transportation.”

Book 3: A King and A Pawn

Book – A King and A Pawn (Leader Murders #3)

Author – Liv Olteano

Star rating – ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

No. of Pages – 234

Cover – Moody and Gorgeous!

POV – 1st person, one character, POV

Would I read it again – Yes.

Genre – LGBT, Paranormal, Crime

.

** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

Reviewed for Divine Magazine

.

I struggled with this one, because it took me a while to make up my mind about my rating and how I felt about it. Though I’m totally addicted to the series, I’d have to say the order they come in, as a series, is also the order I’d rank them for my favourite to least favourite.

I’d really been looking forward to getting Bert’s story, after seeing snippets of him in book 2. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down. He spent way too much time emphasising his role as Beta and making excuses for himself and other people. I initially assumed that this left the Alpha role to Will, but that was wrong. While Bert went from intriguing and fun to whiny and insecure, Will transitioned from Alpha to sub. He pretty much drooled over Bert, the minute they made their deal and that was disappointing.

I liked the strong, feisty will from the Kingdom, not so much who he became on Council territory. The same could be said for Bert. In book 2 and the beginning of book 3, he was a little snarky, showed some signs of dominance and a flirty, cheeky attitude. That all disappeared when he met Will and returned to Council territory, where he became the simpering Beta, worrying over whether he was good enough, if he should take risks and constantly questioning his role as Weiss’ Beta. The fact that Weiss had to keep encouraging him and reminding him of his role in the pack got a little frustrating.

You might ask why I assumed there was a need for an Alpha role? Well, because there’s always one in this series. Travis was the Alpha with a tender side, while Rick was his snarky, feisty submissive. Weiss was the gruff, loveable rogue of an Alpha, who wasn’t afraid to make the tough choices, while Tim was a little more emotionally free and insecure, while retaining a tough core that could be used whenever necessary (AKA, protecting Alf etc.) I get that Bert is a Beta, so he’s supposed to be submissive to Weiss, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be assertive or retain his character from the start of the book while with Will.

Sadly, the constant doubts about Will’s character and loyalty prevented me from rooting for him and I felt that it disconnected me from the chemistry he shared with Bert. At times I wanted them to be together, but at other times I just didn’t care enough. I didn’t particularly like Will’s kids or the Fey treatment of children, either, which didn’t help.

While I’m on the inconsistency of characters, I really feel sad and frustrated that Rick was turned into something he’s not, throughout the course of books 2 and 3. He was always strong, with a soft underbelly and, sure, Mitch was an infection lying in wait at the back of his mind, festering away. But I really thought Travis would have helped with that, that he would confront Mitch while a strong, capable lycan and confront the past. I get that there are mentions of getting him therapy with Tim, in book 2 and then him going through with it in book 3, but I really don’t get the vehemence of his fury with Weiss. It’s not like him. He knows better and is smarter than to project his feelings for Mitch onto Weiss. I get why he never really took to Tim, after his prior relationship with Travis, but Rick is a strong enough person to get past that (especially after he’s mated to Travis and Tim is mated to Weiss). He’s also smart enough to know that Amanda was a psycho, even if she didn’t begin as one. And that there are two people to blame for her situation.

Basically, it just annoyed me that a character I’d loved so much was turned into someone that I’d never imagined he could be. He became cold, bitter and angry all the time. Not how I wanted him to end the series or ever become, but the lack of answers about that, in a series where each book is about a new couple and you only get one character’s POV, was another reason I couldn’t love this book so much.

When you have a book series which is essentially about three different couples, all mixed up in the one situation, it’s very limiting to have 1st person, one character POV. For the above reason – we never get to see Rick recover or know about his true feelings in a way that would satisfy my initial love of him – but also because this plot was so intricate and detailed that this is where the story fell down so much. Without delving into other characters POV, even for one or two chapters, we missed out on a great chunk of the plot. I never got to see the interrogation of the council members, the confrontation with the council or the questioning of the perpetrators of the initial three Leader Murder cases. Those are all important to the plot and the characters, since the first page of book 1. Not seeing them and following the Leader Murders through every clue and every twist as it came, was frustrating.

Book prior books focused so much on solving the case that I really expected the same here. Instead, everything integral to the solving of the case was placed into other people’s hands – Weiss and Tim or Travis and Rick – which we never got to see. For that reason, the story became much more about whether Will was a traitor or not than about solving the Leader Murders. To me, the case became less of “the heart” of the story and more “a means to an end” to draw Will and Bert together. In the end, this left me with an unsatisfactory resolution to a criminal case that I’d been following eagerly since book 1.

Similarly, it took far too long for the romance to build. Bert and Will were still at an unsure stage by 70-80% and it really felt as though the majority of the book was about the “will they, won’t they” aspect of their relationship, rather than the Leader Murders, which is should have been. And, disappointingly, it never went anywhere. At least not on page. Some tame, not very detailed fooling around happened throughout the story, always with Bert keeping an emotional distance, and when they did have sex it was a first for the series. The first to take literally 90% for them to get into bed and then the first to rush their first time together – the most important interaction between the couple – into one brief, non-descriptive paragraph that was glossed over.

I think the main reason I didn’t fall for this couple the way I did with the others came down to two factors –

  • the ring – Bert is given a magic ring, to help him on his mission, and this makes it impossible for Will to read his emotional grid. It also keeps Bert hidden behind a protective cage, where he doesn’t have to expose his true feelings.

  • the Beta thing – Bert uses his role as Beta to Weiss to constantly put distance between himself and Will. The way he uses Weiss’ influence over him and his compliance to his Alpha as an excuse was really frustrating.

Like the other books in the series, there were quite a few repeat phrases. “Peacocking”, “fuck me sideways” and the constant belittling of Bert (calling himself fat, useless, untrustworthy, unworthy and a Beta all the time) got old really fast.

I was, however, really happy to see the Anti-Abuse Act put into force and to see a proper resolution to Amanda’s part of the story. But the other aspects of the plot made those shining moments less exciting.

The Leader Murders, which took the previous two stories by storm, with various twists, turns and outcomes, had never really gone anywhere. They were clues, hints, trickles of information and I presumed that meant there would be more books to the series, until they put all the pieces together and gathered the evidence. However, that’s not going to happen. This book ended with a neat little bow and a summary at the end, of the three couples, that implies there won’t be any more books.

All clues and leads were not only real and brought new evidence in this story, but it happened way too fast and in a way that we didn’t really get to explore, because Bert and Will were too busy together or plotting against the Fey Court to be a part of it. After the build up of the previous two books, I expected clues to show up, for things to start happening or for one of their prisoners to talk, but not for the entire case – form book 1 to 3 – to be resolved and tied up in the last 20% of the story.

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Overall, Bert was less of a shining star as he should have been. His position as Beta was used to solve the case, as were his personal ties to people orbiting the case, but not directly involved.

A disappointing ending to a fantastic series. Book 1 – Travis and Rick – will always be my favourite and it won’t stop me reading all three again in the future. But I do wish that book 3 hadn’t deviated so much from the pattern I’d been expecting and from the Leader Murders so much.

~

Favourite Quotes

“The King was throwing me a welcome party, during which I half expected them to try poisoning me. But the Court was big on pomp and circumstance, Tim told me. They’d make an event out of picking their noses if they could. So they’d even throw a wolf a welcome party, though they generally looked on us as nasty beasts.”

“He was the taste of destruction, and in that terrible moment, I wanted him. I wanted to wrap myself around his heart like a snake, sink my teeth into it, and take a good chunk of it, if not consume it entirely.”

~

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