It's sometimes hard to remember that Mercy's friend Stefan – the t-shirt wearing Scooby Doo fan – is a vampire, and vampires are inherently evil; he's such a nice guy. So when he asks a favor, Mercy is willing, even though it means being a witness as he confronts another vampire who is in the territory without having asked permission. What neither of them knows before approaching the stranger, though, is that this isn't just a vampire: it's a demon-ridden vampire. This a Bad, Bad Thing.
What ensues is one of the more difficult scenes to read in my experience. Granted, I don't seek out the difficult – but this was rough. This was the sort of thing that made me give up the Patricia Cornwell novels. The fact that it's set in the first person, and that person is someone I've come to care about, makes it so much harder. (Not as hard as … other things will be, but hard.)
So begins a rather darker book than the first in the series, in which Mercy is called on to help locate and rid the world of this demon-ridden vampire. She learns a lot in the course of this mission: about vampires, and Stefan in particular, and about her men Simon and Adam – and about herself and her own strengths. And by the end of it she's ready to do what must be done, even if it puts her in acute danger.
I'll say this: Patricia Briggs is not afraid to put her characters through the wringer. The fact that she is able to do this and bring them – and the reader – out the other side with all the scars to show for it, affected but resilient, and instead of driving characters apart from each other and readers away from the characters … She's good, is Patricia Briggs. For me this isn't reading with the possibility of bailing on the series when the going gets too tough. For me this is visiting old friends – and sticking with those friends through their travails, as one should with friends, and being glad for and with them when it's all over. This isn't the best in the series – but since it's one of my favorite series, that still puts it miles above most of the rest.