Cry Wolf

Bone Crossed
by Patricia Briggs
(Ace, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN  978-0-4410-1676-1
In the fourth book of what is arguably the best paranormal series since Anita Blake, Briggs picks up directly where she left off with the previous Mercy Thompson novel, Iron Kissed.

Coyote shapeshifter Mercedes, a mechanic, used to keep her life quiet.  Then, somehow, her past as the foster child of the king of the werewolves, Bran; her history with his son, Samuel; and her budding future with the local clan's Alpha, Adam, brings her abilities to the forefront.  Now, she's involved off and on with various dealings with not only the werewolves, but with the vampires, fae, ghosts, and whatever else happens to wander across her path.  For a woman who always considered herself pretty insignificant and did her best to remain unnoticed, it's a drastic change.

Doing her best to keep each issue to its own novel, Bone Crossed is about Mercy's problems with the local vampire seethe, run by an ancient woman named Marsilia.  Mercy recently killed two vampires (with a great deal of magical help provided by her fae friend Zee, now cleared of all criminal charges), one of which was with Marsilia's blessing.  The second, Andre, despite the fact that he was the ringleader of the crime for which the first vampire had been slain, was a favorite of Marsilia's.

A vampire Mercedes considers a friend, Stefan, has popped--literally--back into her life, after being absent since the killings.  He's been tortured and his people killed by Marsilia to make a point: don't help the coyote. Well, the coyote, being a very loyal woman, decides to skip town for a while.  Unfortunately, not even her new alpha werewolf mate doesn't realize the opportunity that presents itself is just a trick to get Mercy into the grip of another vampire.

The trick itself is a former college friend whose house is haunted.  And, though Mercy doesn't really care much anymore for Amber and isn't impressed with her husband, Amber's son draws her in.  Even once she realizes she's personally in danger, Mercy is unwilling to leave the boy in the clutches of a ghost who has managed to physically manifest enough to cause physical harm.

Bone Crossed moves entirely too quickly to be called meandering, but it does seem as if the author loses focus on most of the plotlines.  The vampires -- at home and away -- don't receive all of the attention they deserve since they are the premise for this novel.  Mercy's mother, with whom it's been made clear Mercy has issues, is introduced, but her character carries no further than that.  Adam and Mercy do finally mate, and a few of the ensuing problems with that are brought forward but, again, not fully enhanced.

Mercy seemed less herself in Bone Crossed.  Yes, she has just been through hell, but a few panic attacks are all that she gives us to gauge her reaction to her rape and the slaughter of her rapist.  All in all, I loved this book as I have loved the rest of this series and the break-off series, Alpha and Omega.  However, I left with the distinct feeling that if Briggs had given us another hundred pages or so, the read would have been much more fulfilling.  As it is, at least Bone Crossed didn't have the cliff hanger ending of its predecessor to drive readers crazy, but it will still have them eager for the next installment.

--Sarrah Knight

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