With this review I have finally completed reviewing this series, at least until the next book is released. Dead Heat is the fourth book in the Alpha & Omega series, and I would not recommend reading Dead Heat as a stand-alone, as there are spoilers for both the Alpha & Omega series and the Mercy Thompson series, also by Patricia Briggs.
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal–or at least it starts out that way…
Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.
I really enjoyed Dead Heat, and while I didn’t feel like the Alpha & Omega books were getting stale or formulaic, this book still managed to be a breath of fresh air. I really like feeling immersed in a world I’ve never experienced—probably a large part of the draw for fantasy and sci-fi—and the horse ranch that Dead Heat is set in was a great way to keep the book grounded and provide a variety of opportunities for exposition and plot developments, while also providing an interesting setting for the book. I was happy with the way the horse selection proceeded, and was glad it didn’t end in an obvious way.
I was glad to meet some of Charles’s human friends and past acquaintances in this book, and to have more of an explanation as to why so few humans are incorporated into the series/the main character’s lives. There was an interesting moral/ethical situation that arose in this book (in a uniquely urban fantasy sort of way) that really helped to add some emotional depth to this book, without resorting to overused tropes or angst.
I really enjoyed the characters introduced/re-introduced in this book (I’m always a fan of Special Agent Leslie Fisher), and I feel the need to re-iterate Patricia Briggs’s skill at writing diverse women. Not just racially, but in the ways they express their femininity and make their choices. I wish it weren’t so rare, but I can at least celebrate it where I find it—Patricia Briggs writes women as fully fleshed out people, and it’s great to read.
The plot of Dead Heat was fast-moving and entertaining, though I do think the way the crime was ultimately solved was a little quickly, though there are some unexpected twists and developments that keep things exciting. There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this book, but it’s done well. Even re-reading I didn’t feel like developments dragged or became obvious. There’s a lot of characters and scenarios introduced in this book that I can’t help but think will return in future books, and I’d really love to see more of Chelsea and Mackie in either this series, or the Mercy Thompson series.
I mentioned before that I loved the complete change of pace that Dead Heat provided, and I do feel the need to mention (as I seem to do in every Alpha & Omega review) that I enjoy the way the series is structured, with Anna and Charles travelling to investigate various situations. It prevents credulity straining that so many important events would keep happening in a small area, it allows for a variety of stressors that organically bring about character development and interesting conversations, it allows for a series of larger-than-life characters to be introduced without the strain of having them all appear consistently in future books, and just all around allows for a fun, interesting series with a continuing plot line that only follows a small cast. I think this was done well in early Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels (Bloody Bones or Obsidian Butterfly, for example), and currently in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series.
Overall, Dead Heat is a great entry in a wonderful series. This bookwould be a good choice for fans of those series I just mentioned, or for people who enjoyed Kate Mascarenhas’s The Thief on a Winged Horse (the immersion in a family business is done particularly well in this book, as well), Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series or Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House.