‘Dead Heat’ – Alpha and Omega #4 by Patricia Briggs

As the pandemic grinds on, Brexit starts to bite and the venal incompetence and fundamental inhumanity of our leadership starts to be accepted as normal as part of that it-could-be-worse coping mechanism the English use as an alternative to political struggle, I’ve been losing the struggle for serenity (Is that an oxymoron or a statement that I’m not doing it right?). So it was a relief to feel myself slipping into a book and just relaxing. While I read this, I was able to let go of the anxiety and the anger and give myself up to a different version of the world, one where the monsters are more compassionate than the people we elect into power. In some ways, the impact of the book on my mood is similar to the impact that Anna has as an Omega on the werewolves around here: she quiets their angry hunger and brings them peace.

‘Dead Heat’ is a modern fairytale and, like the old fairytales, it takes real hopes and fears and dresses them up to be things that we can handle from a distance. The Fey embody the impersonal malevolence that chews up the people we love. The werewolves become defenders of the weak and the life force is expressed through family and lifelong love and the dignified acceptance of the inevitability of death. It is a book filled with malice, violence, and threat and yet I found it comforting.

This is the fourth Alpha and Omega book and with it, the series really gets into its stride. We know Anna and Charles now and they are starting to understand each other and to make each other stronger by the way they support and nurture each other. We understand the werewolf world they live in and their place in it. So now Patricia Briggs is free to step back from the two of them and embrace something new.

‘Dead Heat’ is a book with a tense, complex plot is wrapped around the need to protect a family at risk. The Fae, for reasons of their own, have let loose some of their darker brethren to prey on humans in the way that they used to in the times that fairytales draw their cautionary stories from. One of the Fae is kidnapping and killing children. The Fae unwitingly breaks the rules it was given when one of the children it takes is the great-grandchild of an old werewolf Alpha.

Anna and Charles become involved because they are visiting the Alpha’s human son to buy a horse for Anna when the abduction happens.

What follows is an intense, supernatural mystery story told with skilful pacing and vivid descriptions. As always, the sense of place is strong and the action scenes are detailed and tense. The mystery works well. The baddy is scary and the plot is twisty.

What I enjoyed most about the book were the reflections on what family and friendship mean. This is covered both in the tension between Anna and Charles about having a child together and in the relationship between Charles and a man, the Alpha’s son, who was fourteen and green when Charles first met him and is now in his eighties and dying. I loved the way choosing a natural death over being turned was worked through, showing empathy both for the decision to accept death as part of being human and understanding the loneliness of choosing to outlive the humans that you love.

I’ll be back for another visit with Anna and Charles soon, probably as part of Halloween Bingo 2021.

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