Next, I'm going to mention Moon Called by Patricia Briggs.
This is the first book in the Mercy Thompson series. It tells a complete story but leaves plenty of obvious room for the characters to go on and do more.
This is another of the currently burgeoning genre of werewolves, vampires, and such creatures poking around at the edges of our present day society. There's nothing highly original about this world, but it's fairly well handled, using the method of not going into much detail about how the supernatural stuff works. Most of us don't go into a werewolf novel in a very skeptical mood anyway; as long as an author doesn't deliberately rub our noses in something too jarringly bogus, we can go with the flow, and that's just what Briggs does here. Just enough detail about the wider world to support the personal story about the characters we meet, and those characters are compelling. At least, they compel me. I find that a couple of paragraphs introducing a character sympathetically, plus telling me that the character is a werewolf, is enough to leave me ready to take a bullet for that character. Bad things happen to minor characters to advance the plot, and I measure how strongly I'm pulled into the world by just how much pain I feel for them.
I'm still thinking about these characters and their ethical choices after several days and a fair bit of other reading. I don't think it's a perfect book, but it's damn good. 9 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
Mercy Thompson is a walker, a sort of a were-coyote, a New World magical creature. Werewolves, vampires, and other European magical creatures have wiped out most of the native stuff, just as European culture mostly wiped out Native American cultures. She's a struggling independent auto mechanic. A homeless kid with no papers wanders by her shop and works for her for a day. Turns out he's a werewolf. Mercy's just deciding that he's worth taking on when he winds up dead on her doorstep. She discovers that her next door neighbor, Adam, the local alpha werewolf, has been attacked at his home; he's near death and his daughter is missing. Mercy fears treachery in the pack, so she takes him to Montana, to Bran, a very old werewolf who's basically in charge of all the wolves in North America. It seems that she was fostered there, until Bran's son Samuel nearly takes advantage of the teenage girl who thinks she's in love with him, and Bran intervenes to send her away. Mercy meets a friend from that time, Dr. Carter Wallace, who was the veterinarian, a very gentle soul, and not a werewolf. He's a werewolf now. He didn't want to be, but he got bone cancer, which is an extremely nasty way to die, so he allowed Gerry, his son and a werewolf, to turn him. He lived through it physically, but he was ethically unwilling to accept his new wolf nature. These werewolves are not evil by nature, but they are killers. If the human won't accept the wolf, the wolf will become a monster and will have to be killed. What Mercy didn't know before, that she now learns about Samuel, is that he's very old but has no surviving children. Mercy's magical nature make her a very desirable mate. A normal human's children aren't likely to live through the transition to werewolf (but are likely to want to attempt it), and female werewolves are sterile, but Mercy's kids, should she have them, might inherit her walker abilities and would be tougher. Mercy is hurt to realize that Samuel's interest in her was apparently so cynical, and that he was so much older. But even though she doesn't think she's still in love with him, there's obviously still some chemistry. Anyway, they return to Pasco and get a lead on the kidnappers through the local vampires. David Christensen, who was in Viet Nam with Adam when the two of them became werewolves, was one of the bad guys and turned his coat to save their bacon. Some good fights and derring-do. Eventually it comes out that the actual villain was Gerry, who was trying to manipulate things so that Dr. Wallace would challenge Bran, because one serious fight would force his personality to integrate. And he had an ally in the form of the grandson of the local witch, who would see to it that Bran lost the fight. Adam wins this fight, and Gerry, defeated, is executed. Dr. Wallace does not fight Bran, nor does he resist. With the full moon, he becomes a wolf one last time, and Bran kills him. At the end of the story, Mercy realizes that Samuel and Adam are both actively courting her; she's interested in both of them, but doesn't want to hurt either one.
Mac's death early in the story hurt; I'd just been shown a character that I liked, that I wanted to see more of, and he got offed. But the real pain of the story is Dr. Wallace. I really wanted him to make it. After all of the pain and death that Gerry caused out of wanting to save his father, it seemed unfair that Dr. Wallace, whom I'd pegged as an extremely nice person even though he got very little screen time, couldn't be saved. It took me days to beat myself into accepting (still grudgingly) that Dr. Wallace had the right to make his own choice about who he would be. To become a fully integrated, controlled werewolf would change him; that new person would, I imagine, have been happy about who he was, but the one who preferred to die than to become that new person knew what he was doing and had the right to make that choice. Gerry didn't have the right to insist that he change because losing him hurt, and I don't either.
ETA: Crap, I meant to say something about the cover (on the 2006 Ace mass market paperback), and I just realized that I'd posted without it. I seldom pay much attention to cover art. Covers often have nothing to do with the book, and I just roll my eyes about it. But the bimbo on the cover of this book has just enough to do with the Mercy in the story that the wrongness is really grating. The text is not porn. The cover is. I don't have anything against porn, but I actually felt just a teeny bit uncomfortable about reading a book with this cover picture in the doctor's office -- because while *I* don't have anything against porn, other people aren't so enlightened. I could go on, but I hope I made my point.