This is book 4 in the werecat series. It has several bits of exposition to try to explain what happened in the previous books, but it probably wouldn't be enough. The immediate events in this episode are resolved, but between the series arc stuff that was already hanging fire and the additional stuff that gets added, there's a lot more frustration than conclusion.
I had a lot of trouble reading this book; I was so tense that I just couldn't stay focused. I don't think it's all the book's fault; I'm in a bad place emotionally. But I think that there is more suspense and pain being thrown around than is truly needed. Even though I'm not given to analyzing the situation as the book is unfolding -- I want to just dive into the story and let it happen -- I had trouble believing a number of things in the plot. Too many times it seemed like the plot fairy was forcing people's actions, rather than the characters I've come to know acting the way they should have in the situation. I'm very frustrated by where we wind up on the main series plot arc, and I'm also very frustrated with the new twist in the heroine's love life story arc. The second point is wholly believable, but it's a part of human nature I hate. All in all, I seem to have a lot of complaints here, but my biggest problems seem to be that it's giving me too much emotional pain and vicarious stress, and making me care too much can't really make it a bad book.
7 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
The Pride is sending Manx to Atlanta for her trial. (For all that we're supposed to sympathize with her, she did murder three innocent toms two books ago. It strains believability, given how the werecat justice system has been portrayed up to now, that she's supposed to have a chance.) Because they have to drive through free territory, they're bringing Faythe, who's going to meet Marc for some nookie. They meet our old friend Dan Painter and then find Marc. Faythe and Marc ride together in Marc's car, which quickly develops trouble. They pull over to find a slashed radiator hose. And a horde of strays, in cat form, attack. Seriously outnumbered, armed only with improvised weapons, they rely awfully heavily on being the good guys to win the fight. And Painter, who'd followed Marc and joined in the fight. Then Faythe goes home, because Kaci is refusing to Shift, and it's killing her; Faythe is the only person she trusts enough to maybe convince her to do it. Marc stays in the free territory, because he's even less allowed into Southeastern territory than into South Central under the terms of his exile. Then Marc gets kidnapped out of his home (leaving a couple of dead bodies). Back home, Jace and Ethan take Kaci for a walk in the woods and get jumped by an invading team from Malone. Jace rescues Kaci and directs Faythe and Greg back to the fight. Ethan is killed. Faythe and Jace get drunk in their grief and have sex, and then get back to tracking Marc down. Painter has given them leads on some of the other strays in the area. They find the SUV that Marc was hauled away in, and follow the tracks to find the body of the guy who'd driven him there. Marc stole his shirt for warmth, and apparently found something under it, because there's an odd cut in his back. I can't at this point remember what excuse we get for why they didn't stay out in the woods looking for Marc, but instead, they torch the SUV to get rid of the evidence and leave to track down and intimidate other witnesses, to wit, one Ben Feldman, whom Faythe has an intuition is not a bad guy, so they try to be nice. He shows them the tracking microchip he'd dug out of his own back, but he won't tell Faythe how to find Kevin Mitchell because he doesn't trust the Pride cats and doesn't see any proof that Kevin is responsible. Somehow, Faythe buys this, even though she'd beaten up the last guy she'd interrogated. They discover Dan has a chip too. Greg is incoherent with rage, but Faythe manages to make him see that if he attacks right away, he'll be sending people to die in a trap. They find the tracker at Kevin Mitchell's, but before they can use it, Kevin calls them and says that he has Marc and will kill him unless Faythe hands herself over in a trade. Faythe lies, saying that she's cleared it with Greg, and directs her backup to snag Marc while she goes in, but unfortunately, Dan turns out to be a traitor. I was suspicious of him when he first showed up, but I'd been lulled into trusting him, along with Faythe. Faythe is using serious psychology on Dan, and clearly has him guilty, but he's convinced himself he has to fight for the side that's going to win. Then Faythe manages to free herself by partial-Shifting to create a claw to cut the duct tape holding her. Marc is about to die when Dan saves him, and then immediately gets his own head knocked in, but then we're out of bad guys. We go back for Ethan's funeral, for Faythe to explain to Kaci that Ethan died, to see that Ryan (who'd mysteriously escaped from the basement) returned for the funeral, and for Ethan's human girlfriend to call Ethan's phone, and in return for hearing that he'd just been killed (the story for human consumption is that he fell out of a tree and broke his neck), she reveals her news -- she's pregnant.
Now we're supposed to be a few days from the impeachment vote that Malone engineered against Greg, and there are charges about the death of Kevin Mitchell, and there's probably about to be a war, though it's not quite clear if Greg is going to order an attack immediately or not. Kaci is OK. Manx was found guilty and declawed, but not executed. (Another disbelief strain here: Manx is certainly helpless right now with her hands in bandages, and disfigured, but in human form having no fingernails isn't really that much of a handicap, and the murders she was on trial for she committed in human form. I guess it's supposed to be a werecat thing that being declawed is a huge psychological blow.) Jace's personality seems to have come into focus with the loss of his closest friend. He's become a strong alpha type, and he wants two things: revenge and Faythe. We're being set up for a showdown between the two men Faythe loves. Faythe hasn't told Marc yet about the grief-consolation sex, and we seem to be going right back to where we were in the first book, where she's going to screw up her relationship by not talking, because we know he'll find out and if it's not from her he'll be more mad. And finally, Greg is pissed at Faythe for acting without orders and almost getting killed again, and has given her an ultimatum: if she disobeys another order, she will be disinherited; Greg will make Marc his heir whether she marries him or not.
Damn it, the fact that two guys I like, either of whom would be ready to take a bullet for the other, are being set up to kill each other because they they love the same woman pisses me off. I know it's not the way people work in the real world, and I suspect that most readers would find it harder to swallow, but I desperately want Faythe to sit both boyfriends down and tell them that she loves both of them, she wants both of them as lovers, she won't forgive either one of them for hurting or driving away the other, and they're damn well going to make it work as a threesome.