The Dresden Files #1: Storm Front
By Jim Butcher
If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood, if it's somethin' weird and it don't look good, if you're seein' things runnin' through your head, an invisible man sleepin' in your bed, who ya gonna call?
Not the Ghostbusters, silly. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Wizards", and call the only man listed.
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is the only "openly practicing professional wizard in the country", and what that amounts to is him essentially being a hardboiled private eye who relies more on totems and spells than he does on a Saturday Night Special (though he does know when a gun is more efficient weapon to wield).
From the outset of this story, Dresden is called on to investigate two different cases: distraught wife Monica Sells hires him to investigate the disappearance of her husband; and Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Director of Special Investigations with the Chicago PD, brings him in as a consultant on a grizzly murder case that appears to have used Black Magic.
It quickly becomes evident, though, that there are even more plotlines: there's Harry's budding romance with tabloid journalist Susan Rodriguez; a rising gang war on the streets revolving around a new drug called ThreeEye; and the White Council, a sort of magical judicial system, that wants Harry put to death. Of course, in the manner of all great coincidences found in fiction, all of these roads converge into one somewhere along the way.
Butcher here has crafted a kitchen sink kind of universe (as in, everything but the...), in that it's not just a world populated by magicians. There are also vampires, fairies (yes, fairies), demons, and talking skulls--and those are just some of the examples of characters that had actual roles in the story. There are tons of other examples merely hinted at or mentioned in passing. I'm all for extensive worlds and mythologies, but this seemed a bit extensive for a single book, and maybe would have been better spread out over a few volumes. And there are plenty of volumes to come, so I know that I haven't seen anything yet!
There was a lot of action and excitement here, but the real draw of the story is the characters and their relationships. Dresden himself is something of a grump, but a grump with a heart of gold despite the air of perpetual bad luck and gloomy doom that follows him around wherever he goes. He's a solid character and our narrator, consistently referencing events from his past and details of his world that we can only hope will be explored more in the future. Karrin Murphy is grade-A American badass, Bob the Skull (really an air spirit who inhabits said skull) is classic quirky sidekick, Mac the bartender is the prerequisite taciturn grouch, and Toot-Toot is...well, Toot-Toot is a bratty little fairy. You gotta take the good with the bad.
It was a quick and fun read, rather light in the grand scheme of things, but so what? If you can't enjoy a little escape now and again, then you're wound a little too tight for your own good. I had a good time reading it, and am looking forward to diving into the next book in the series.
"Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face."Have truer words ever been spoken?