The king's only son is kidnapped, and Beka Cooper and her partner Tunstall are charged with finding him. From the first, it's clear that this was an inside job, and as the case continues, more and more obstacles are thrown in the Dogs' way. They must battle through swamps, ambushes, and controlling nobles. But at least they've got help: Tunstall's lover, the lady knight Sabine, Cooper's scent-hound Achoo, her powerful friend Pounce, and a mage named Farmer.
This was my least favorite of the Cooper/Dog series, for two reasons. One, the characterization felt unnatural. From the way Beka reacted to her mother being abused by a man (ie: getting justice on him and then swearing never to be with anyone like that, thus nixing any possible romance with Rosto) and the way she reacted to her last two love interests (ie: staying independent and aloof, regardless of how much fun they had), AND given how much she hates Dogs being bad at their job, I just can't buy that she'd ever date an abusive Dog who was bad at his job, let alone STAY with him for any length of time, let alone plan on marrying him. It came out of nowhere, and it felt artificial. So did Tunstall's betrayal, which felt like authorial fiat. And so did Beka's romance with Farmer, which developed fast and heavy-handedly. I liked Farmer, but I would have liked him a lot more if it Pierce hadn't made him so perfect in so many ways. Plus, I missed all of Beka's friends: Goodwin, Rosto, Tansy, Anika, Kora, Ersken, etc.
And two, the ending was a anti-climax mixed with unbelievable plot twists, which is a terrible combination. If I don't get climactic show downs, I want it to be because the author has decided to be realistic and gritty--not because the author wants to tie up all the loose ends as quickly as possible, with little imput from the main character. Instead, we got Tunstall's random betrayal, followed by him dying of cold in the night
???, a battle that Beka&co note from a distance but don't even watch, followed by everyone returning to the city to find that Beka gets everything she ever dreamed of cuz why not, I guess. And then the crowd starts chanting "mastiff" at Beka, which comes out of *nowhere*. No where has anyone called her mastiff before, and she's nothing like a mastiff in personality or performance. Apparently the crowd just randomly assigns dog nicknames to people, in unison.