In Bone Crossed, the fourth installment in the Mercedes Thompson series, Mercy is learning to cope with her new role as the mate of the local werewolf pack while still suffering the effects of a horrific assault that occurred at the climax of Iron Kissed. Complications from inter-species conflicts remain a central theme, and her relationship challenges don’t simply fade away, but Mercy Thompson does not cry mercy.
Patricia Briggs keeps the story moving, introducing new plot elements which require Mercy to constantly re-evaluate and adjust. Another author might wave a magic wand and make things all better for Mercy, but Briggs doesn’t, and my respect for her writing deepens as a result. Too many authors leave their heroes static, allowing everything to magically work out right without much effort by the characters. But just as real life keeps tossing us problems, so Briggs doesn’t let Mercy rest. It’s not that she’s on a non-stop wheel of pain — it’s just that she doesn’t get to skip through life without paying the bill for being an agent of change. New issues continue to pop up, and past choices by supporting characters come back to haunt Mercy and her friends. I love that Briggs makes her heroine deal with the second and third order effects of having broken with tradition and made enemies in the past.
Bone Crossed is not a long story, and Briggs doesn’t cover lots of new ground here, but there is still plenty to absorb in this well-written novel. Patricia Briggs deserves high marks for maintaining a high level of realism (and high quality writing) in a genre that’s not consistently known for that. Briggs keeps both feet on the ground while leading us on another exciting chase through an urban fantasy world that is better developed than any other I have read.
Mercy Thompson, a part-Native American coyote shapeshifter or walker, and full-time mechanic, is still dealing with the emotional aftermath of events in Iron Kissed, but at least she and the local werewolf Alpha, Adam, are on the right track now. Unfortunately for them, their relationship plans promptly get interrupted: Marsilia, the mistress of the local vampire clan or “seethe” (I love that word), has found out that Mercy acted contrary to her orders in Blood Bound and is out now for Mercy’s blood, quite literally. Marsilia has a set of crossed bones painted on Mercy’s garage door (in magical, non-removable paint) that tells the supernatural world Mercy is a marked woman and free game. All in all, it’s a good time for Mercy to leave town for a few days while her werewolf friends try to negotiate a peaceful resolution with the vampires.
So when Mercy’s old college friend, Amber, turns up on her doorstep asking for her to come visit and help with a ghost that’s haunting her Spokane home, it seems like a heaven-sent opportunity. With all of Mercy’s current issues with vampires, it seems Mercy and Adam to be helpful that there’s only one vampire in the entire city of Spokane, one Jim Blackwood. Surely Mercy won’t come to Blackwood’s notice? But in reality, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.
This fourth book in the MERCY THOMPSON series is my favorite one yet, with tight, intense plotting and an imaginative story line that deftly mixes together ghosts, vampire conspiracies and power games, and fae artifacts all playing role in the plot, along with Mercy’s developing relationship with the long-suffering Adam. Despite all of these competing elements, the plot never gets confusing. Patricia Briggs manages to blend these elements together in a way that not only makes sense but is deeply satisfying.
I agree with John that it’s a particular strength in this series that Mercy ― as well as other characters ― don’t get to simply dance through life without paying the fiddler. Emotional and psychological problems aren’t simply resolved within a week, wrapped up with a neat bow and put away forever. In fact, one major issue that I had with Iron Kissed, that the ending too easily smoothed over a weighty personal issue of Mercy’s, was resolved by the beginning of Bone Crossed, which casts that scene in a different light as the story continues from that same point.
One of the reasons the MERCY THOMPSON series is so appealing to me is the way that Briggs pulls in plot threads from prior books in the series. Time and again, unforeseen consequences and fallout from incidents in previous books in the series resurface, as it becomes apparent that not only are there some loose ends from the past, but they’re creating quite a tangle for Mercy and her friends. As John aptly said, Mercy is dealing with the second and third order effects of her past actions, which is fantastic writing as far as I’m concerned. Similarly, characters and iconic items that the reader is already familiar with, like a particular fae walking stick, reemerge to affect Mercy’s life in new ways. For example, her ability to see ghosts, which was previously a key element in Blood Bound, becomes relevant once again as she attempts to help her old friend Amber with a worrisome haunt, and then further develops into an integral part of Mercy’s ongoing story. Either Briggs has plotted out this series extremely carefully, or she’s particularly gifted at reexamining prior books’ plots and finding intriguing ways to carry incidents, characters and themes forward. In either case, it all feels very organic and natural, helping to create an unusual feeling of realism in this urban fantasy world.