Carolyn Cushman Reviews Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs and Bears Behaving Badly by MaryJanice Davidson

Patricia Briggs, Smoke Bitten (Ace 978-0-440-00155-3, $28.00, 342pp, hc) March 2020. Cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

A new foe with a really nasty bite and some creepy magic keeps Mercy busy trying protect friends and family. At the same time, she’s re­ally worried about her mate. Alpha werewolf Adam hasn’t really recovered emotionally from the last big battle, retreating inside himself so far he’s even shut down their mage bond. Add the reappearance of his ex, and Mercy’s more than a little concerned. On top of all that, the “child” Aidan that Mercy rescued from Under­hill is still around, leading to some weird new developments. With so many problems to deal with, things get a bit chaotic. The breakneck pace keeps things exciting, though the final controntations seem a bit easy, as Mercy comes up with another new power using mate and pack bonds, and the disposal of one foe harks back to an old fairytale a little too literally for my taste. Fortunately, a funny finale makes a nice palate cleanser and wraps things up nicely.

MaryJanice Davidson, Bears Behaving Badly (Sourcebooks Casablanca 978-1-4926-9701-5, $7.99, pb) March 2020. Cover by Aleta Rafton.

Werebear social workers who’ve been secretly lusting after each other from afar get stuck on a case together and sparks eventually fly in this snark-filled mix of crime thriller and spicy romance, set in a world where Shifters have a sort of separate-but-equal society side-by-side with – but secret from – non-shifting Stables. Their case involves a teen werewolf child, mute and clearly a victim of abuse, who savaged an adult male werewolf; the victim refuses to press charges and flees the hospital. This gets caseworker Annette Garsea of the Interspecies Placement Agency involved, since one of her more troublesome clients, a smart 12-year-old werefox named Dev Devoss, knows the girl, but won’t talk. The girl was brought in by hunky werebear consultant David Auberon, who has some unexpected allies and a car stuffed with sweets. Annette’s got her decidedly quirky housemate Pat, who’s got some useful talents, plus co-workers including caustically funny Nadia, a bird shifter. They need all the help they can get: the girl disappears from custody, bodies start turning up, and it’s pretty clear someone on the inside is working for the bad guys, who are up to some serious nasty busi­ness. Some of the details about the way Shifters and Stables co-exist don’t quite make sense (even Annette notices), but the combination of real thrills, cute kids, lots of banter, and amus­ingly awkward romance (building to some hot moments) makes for a fun adventure.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the April 2020 issue of Locus.

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