Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for. A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards… Professional hit men using Harry for target practice… The missing Shroud of Turin… A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified… Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her simivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life. Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.
Fifth book in the Dresden Files series, and things just won’t slow down for our hapless wizard detective. First he’s on a local talk show panel with a Red Court vampire that’s disguised as a São Paulo University professor, and a Vatican priest. The priest hires Dresden to recover a stolen Shroud of MacGuffin…er, Turin, while the vamp challenges Dresden to a duel to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court. All during the show, mind you. Then, while leaving the studio, he’s attacked by a fallen angel known as a member of the Denarians, but then rescued by Michael Carpenter and the other two Knights of the Cross, named Shiro and Sanya, an Asian Baptist and a Russian agnostic, respectively. They tell Dresden to drop the investigation into the missing Shroud, but he refuses to do so. He then manages to find the Shroud, but is captured by the two thieves, who are then attacked by another one of the Denarians that are also trying to find the Shroud themselves. Dresden escapes, goes to an art sales event to see if the Shroud is going to be sold there, gets attacked by another set of Denarians (man, they’re all over the place, like misquetoes or something), who manage to steal the Shroud. The leader of the Denarians then tries to make Dresden an offer he can’t refuse, only to have Dresden refuse it, and Shiro shows up to trade himself for Dresden. Harry and the two other Knights capture one of the other Denarians and manage to get the Denarians’ nefarious plans, which involves a virus infecting the world. But before Dresden can even begin to think about how to thwart that, he has that little duel with the Red Court vampire to take care of.
Whoa, boy this was a big’un. As if the previous baddies weren’t’ enough, we now get introduced to the Denarians, which are described as a coven of fallen angels who reside in the 30 pieces of silver that were given to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus back in the day. So, there are thirty of those buggars overall, with just a handful encountered here. They possess human hosts who have taken hold of the coins, and can transform into rather nightmarish beings. Their leader, Nicodemus, is nigh-invulnerable and wears the noose Judas used to hang himself as a fashion accessory. Another one of the Red Court vamps arrives to continue the sub-plot of the war between them and the White Court of Wizards, and also the Fellowship of St. Giles, which feature humans who were infected by the Red Court vamps but had yet to give in to drinking lifeblood to complete their transformation, which is what Dresden’s ex is part of. The other two Knights of the Cross show up, and they have some interesting back stories to tell. Then there’s The Archive. All I’m going to say about her is, welcome Unnervingly Creepy Child to the world of Dresden’s Chicago. And also, BUTTERS! Yay, Butters!
This book in the Dresden Files series left my head swimming. But, in a good way. You definitely can’t accuse Jim Butcher of merely rehashing the same plot over and over; here, we get some rather intense action, a story with some intriguing twists and turns, and some further development for current characters as well as introducing further ones. It’s nice to see the momentum is gathering rather than stalling out with this series.