Dead Heat by Patricia BriggsDead Heat by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega #4)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace on March 3, 2015

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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My thanks to Ace and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. View Spoiler »

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In DEAD HEAT the series arc is revealed and begins to gain momentum, as it becomes clear that the next few books will feature Anna and Charles tracking down the Fae who’ve been unleashed on the human population.

When Charles brings Anna to an Arizona horse ranch run by one of his oldest friends, the couple expects to occupy their time with trail rides and swapping nostalgic stories. Of course, this is a Patricia Briggs novel, so a relaxing vacation free from the supernatural is a pretty big ask. They aren’t even in town for a full day before they’re being pulled into a mounting criminal investigation and local supernatural politics. With tensions between the Fae and humans at an all-time high, our werewolf heroes need to tread carefully…lest they endanger the tentative truce set up by the North American werewolves.

While the danger and political tension and high stakes are all hallmarks of this series, I had heard that a new – and surprising – element had been added to DEAD HEAT: horses. If you’re anything like me, you probably raised an eyebrow at that, but somehow Patricia Briggs makes it work.

Anna and Charles’ shared love of horses is an example of the similarities between what first appears to be a somewhat unlikely pair; horse breeding as a business also gives us a window into Charles’ past, which is of course fascinating. That said, I could have done with a lot less information about the horses themselves. More time spent on Joseph and his lifelong friendship with Charles – and how that friendship shaped the recalcitrant werewolf – and less time with the individual horses would have made the story stronger. Despite my grumbling about the horses, I did really like Portabella, one of the horses that Anna is considering buying. That horse had a hell of a lot of personality, and also led to some pretty quippy moments. Behold:

“Portabella,” Anna said, having thought about the name and come up with an alternate theory for it, instead of the one attached to the mare’s pedigree. “Because someone fed her BS until she turned into a mushroom.”

Chuckle-worthy dialogue and Anna’s sly sense of humour helped alleviate some of the tension in DEAD HEAT, which all told was one of the darkest installments in the series to date.

Some truly horrible things have come to light during the course of previous investigations or ‘hunts’ for killers, but I think a mass murderer who targets children definitely takes the cake. When a child is abducted during their stay, Charles and Anna join forces with the local werewolf pack to bring her home. Despite having very little page time or backstory, Patricia Briggs makes her readers fear for the child and empathize with her distraught family. Her characters always feel so real to me – which is probably why I’m so emotionally invested in this series.

That investment really paid off with the development of the relationship between Anna and Charles in this installment. Just because these two are married doesn’t mean that there are no issues to work through or hurdles to overcome; and just because they’re werewolves doesn’t mean that their marital issues are unfamiliar. DEAD HEAT sees the couple struggling with an important conversation in most marriages these days: to have children or not to have children. Both Anna and Charles had very compelling arguments (I won’t say who advocated for what!) and I found myself nodding along with them many times. Seeing them calmly discuss and debate such an important and relatable issue for many couples added a nice touch of realism to an otherwise fantastical plot. Want to know what they decided? Better read the book and find out.

Although some parts of the story dragged a bit, DEAD HEAT was a strong addition to the Alpha & Omega series. There is progression on all fronts: the series plot arc is solidified, Anna and Charles’ relationship faces new and realistic challenges and triumphs, and the supernatural world is developed. I’m eagerly anticipating the next book in the series…2016 can’t come soon enough!

Are you a horse lover? They seem cool enough but I never really got the appeal, honestly. If you’ve read DEAD HEAT, where do you see the plot arc of the series going? What do you think of Patricia Briggs’ version of the Fae? Sound off in the comments!