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Genres: Urban Fantasy
Fourth in the Alpha & Omega urban fantasy series and revolving around Charles and Anna and Charles’ father, the Marrok. Wolfshifters all and based in Montana. The couple focus is on Charles and Anna as he fulfills his own wish for Anna with a trip to Arizona. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Alpha & Omega books on my website.
It’s been a few months since Fair Game, 3.
In 2015, Dead Heat was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy.
I suspect Briggs is building the base for the next set of dramas for the Alpha & Omega and Mercy Thompson series. The fae lord mentioned in the prologue — I suspect his, um, actions are merely a precursor for what is to come — and that’s terrifying. More terrifying is realizing what the favorite prey is of the fae.Then the attack on Chelsea and all the spillage of past cases involving children. And wondering what this escalation from the fae is about after Bran has spent months hammering out a treaty with the Gray Lords. I do wonder if the Gray Lords know about this Doll Collector unleashed on the human world.
(I’d sure love to know why he chose his current habitation if that “evil queen” is right about it being his choice.)
Getting into Dead Heat, Briggs builds that tension well as Chelsea’s headache worsens. Briggs has quickly painted enough of Chelsea’s character that the thoughts she’s having don’t seem like her at all, and it adds to that tension, the fear building.
“Good-bye tears your heart out and leaves it a feast for carrion birds who happen by.”
We learn Anna’s strengths in this. It’s a quiet learning for us as the dramas unfold. Maggie is a former lover, and she isn’t shy about giving Anna a bad time out of her own jealousy. Anna also has to worry about Hosteen who hates Chelsea so much that Anna worries he’ll do something to her. And, oh man, it is so much fun to read how frustrated Anna makes Hosteen feel, lol. Omegas are so rare, and Hosteen has no idea.
Briggs is giving the wolves some allies. Agent Fisher is one they bonded with in Fair Game, and for once, the Cantrip agents aren’t jerks!
It’s actually a lovely story as we enjoy the bond that Charles and Anna share. The inner Charles that Anna helps us to understand — a very clever gambit by Briggs that reveals background information without being an info dump!
“He was her warm safe place in the storm of the world, and she…she thought that she was his home.”
We learn from Charles as well as he muses on loss. The loss of friends and the passage of time for him versus those who are humans. If it’s worth befriending humans when it only leads to grief. It’s a meditation and a case that helps Charles and Anna come to know each other even better.
It’s a delicate topic. Children. Female werewolves can’t carry a baby to term if they shift at the full moon. Yet Anna wants to try. An attempt that Charles refuses for he lost his mother when he was born. Anna means too much to Charles for him to chance losing her.
It’s another type of loss that pulls at Charles to head to Arizona where he encounters yet more losses.
And an insidious fae attack that leaves a family grieving.
The nearly 200-year-old Charles Cornick is the younger son of the Marrok, his Enforcer, and the investment manager for the pack. Brother Wolf is his other side. Anna is his beloved mate, an omega wolf (see On the Prowl: “Alpha & Omega”, Alpha & Omega, 0.5 & Mercy Thompson, 2.5). Anna’s father is a lawyer. Jinx is her current horse, the one Charles thinks needs to be upgraded.
Samuel is his child-obsessed brother and a medical doctor. Ariana, a fae, is the mate he lost so long ago (Shifting Shadows: “Silver”) and found again. The Marrok is Bran Cornick, the ruler of all the werewolves in North America.
The eighty-two-year-old Joseph Sani was once Charles’ best friend in the world. And still the best horseman Charles has ever seen. Maggie is the woman Joseph married, and she is still in love with Charles. Ernestine and Libby are Maggie’s great-nieces. Chelsea Sani is married to Joseph and Maggie’s son, Hashké Gaajii Sani, a.k.a., Kage, and they have two children together: Michael and Mackie. Max is Chelsea’s son from a previous marriage, and Kage treats him as his own. I do adore Max. He’s so levelheaded! Kage works with the family’s breeding farm while Chelsea is part-owner of a company that trains people. Ánáli Hastiin is Hosteen, the children’s Navajo great-grandfather, Joseph’s father, Alpha of the Salt River Pack, and a breeder of fine Arabian horses. He has some strong feelings about witches and hates Chelsea with a passion.
Hephzibah is a witch who only looks like a horse. Portabella and Merrylegs are some of the horses Anna tries. Morales is a stable hand, Mateo is a senior trainer, and Teri is an apprentice.
Wade Koch is Hosteen’s second in the pack.
Sunshine Fun Day Care is…
…attended by Mackie and Michael. Miss Baird is Mackie’s teacher. Ms. Newman is Michael’s teacher this year, a very regimented teacher who has got the hots for Charles. Mrs. Glover had been Mackie’s teacher until she killed herself. Farrah Edison is the principal. Amethyst Miller is one of Mackie’s classmates. Sara and Brent Miller are in the middle of a nasty divorce. Sean McDermit is a janitor at the day care.
Special Agent Leslie Fisher is with the FBI Violent Crimes Unit and worked with Charles and Anna in Fair Game. Jude is her huge linebacker of a husband who now teaches elementary school. Hemmings.
…a mixed bag. Supposedly, it’s a government agency to aid the supernatural. In truth, it’s run by men bigoted against the supernatural. Agents Jim Marsden and Hollister Leeds, a geek boy and a changeling, show up at the day care.
Possible fae victims
Professor Alexander Vaughn teaches higher mathematics at Arizona State. He’s one of the children who escaped some years ago. Officer Darin “Dare” Richards of the Phoenix PD is Alex’s partner. Mary Lu Vaughn is Alex’s mother, and she believed every word of Alex’s story. Sid was Alex’s father and his great-grandfather, Archie, was a werewolf who lived with the Vaughns as the family dog.
Judy White is a foster mother to Blair. A young girl Brother Wolf believes has a part to play. Helen‘s parents and counselor believe she is possessed. Iris is five and her father, Trent Carter, is overwhelmed. Kathryn Jamison is divorced again, and looking. She’s also a sidhe-seer with a wearden, a tree-folk fae, living in her garden.
Senator Beauclaire was a Prince of the Gray Lords whose actions in Fair Game caused the fae to retreat to their reservations and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. The Doll Collector is the fae sent out into the human world to wreak havoc.
A fetch is a changeling that isn’t a living thing. Ooh, seems that the rest of the world has caught onto the truth that those “jails” the fae were behind are actually their fortresses.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a soft surprise with the so-very young-looking Charles, his black tank-top-clad back up against the black bustier-clad Anna. Her red hair is pulled back to reveal the black collar around her neck, her long chandelier-style earrings dangling. Charles’ wolf gleams from his eyes, his hair in multiple braids, a leather armband around his bicep. The background is hazy, a starry Texas night of cacti, mesas, and a howling wolf.
The title plays off the horses and racing, for it’s a Dead Heat in this race to save the children.