Cry Wolf

Hunting Ground

River Marked
by Patricia Briggs
(Ace, $25.95, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-441-01973-1
After a surprise wedding, Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptman are legally man and wife (though their mate bond and pack bonds were taken care of in previous novels). As their honeymoon, Adam takes Mercy camping in the Columbia River Gorge; and, since chaos tends to follow coyotes, even coyote shifters, Mercy manages to find trouble in Patricia Briggs' newest, River Marked.

Actually, the trouble was there waiting for them.Turns out that Adam had chosen their location based on the advice of a creepy little fae named Edythe.Mercy, despite the fact that she likes camping better than she would have liked a big city, is leery of doing anything for or accepting anything from the fae; but if the shapeshifting otters in the nearby river had been the only problem, she would have been proven wrong. Unfortunately, the vision-like dreams that Mercy's been having for a while are starting to come true and the things they show her are enough to scare even a coyote walker who has been on her own for most of her life and dealt with hungry vampires, pissed-off werewolves, and psycho faerie queens.

First comes the ghost of Mercy's long-dead Indian father. Part of being a walker is the ability to see ghosts, so Mercy's not surprised to see him, just surprised that he should show up after thirty-three years and nowhere near either of their homes. Then Mercy and Adam find an injured Indian man on the river, missing a big chunk of one of his feet. When his friends put their heads together with Mercy and Adam, the emerging picture of a terrifying and behemothic water creature that has a disturbing tendency to eat tourists seems unreal, even to people who are considered "monsters" themselves.

When their investigation turns inward, toward Mercy's own heredity, Mercy is sure that what she is is part of why she and Adam were called to the campground. For the first time, she meets other shifters like herself; she also meets the ancient god/spirit that rode in her father's body until his death.

It soon becomes clear that all of these seemingly unrelated aspects of Mercy's honeymoon somehow tie together. Now, if she can just figure out how and why, maybe she can get down to the business of killing something that really is a monster, keep innocent people from cluelessly walking into their deaths, and enjoy what little remaining alone time she has with her new husband.

As always, Mercy is the kind of character that jumps right off the page into the room with you. As I'm sure was her intention, Briggs finally gives the reader, too, some alone time with Adam, who up until now is always tied down by his teenage daughter or the Pack he leads. The Indians who help with this case are quite the characters themselves, and the novel is peppered with stories learned by oral tradition. Given the previous novels, it's no surprise that River Marked is action-packed and witty. It is certainly a must-read to anyone whose read the other Mercedes Thompson novels, and the series itself should be a must-read for any fans of paranormal fiction or even of Briggs' earlier work in more traditional fantasies.

--Sarrah Knight

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