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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review - Storm Front

Okay, I am introducing a paranormal mystery that most wouldn't think of as a mystery.  This typically gets labeled Urban Fantasy, but it does have a "private investigator" - he just happens to be a wizard.

 Author: Jim Butcher

Paperback April 2000; 320 pgs

Series: # 1 in Dresden Files

Sensuality: mild, innuendo

Mystery sub-genre: Paranormal PI

Main Character: Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden - Wizard and Paranormal Investigator

Setting: Modern day Chicago

Obtained book through: purchased
Harry often consults with the police for their Special Investigations department.  The debut novel gets started when Harry is called to the crime scene of two people, one a call girl and the other a mobster with their hearts blown apart - from the inside outward - with no apparent cause.  Upon exiting the downtown crime scene he is told in no uncertain terms from the local crime boss to drop investigating it.

Already under the Doom of Damocles (a form of probation placed on him by the White Council - who oversee the ethical use of magic), Harry's "probation officer" is a wizard named Morgan who suspects Harry as being the only wizard who could have murdered the couple.  Morgan is determined to prove Harry is the murderer to the White Council by Monday, which will mean Harry's execution.

Things go from bad to worse for Harry as he works the police case and also the only other case he has of a missing husband.  Could the two be related?  Then Harry becomes aware of a new drug that has hit the streets "Third Eye" that is highly addictive and makes people see the spiritual plane. 

My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.  Conjure by it at your own risk.  I'm a wizard.  I work out of an office in midtown Chicago.  As far as I know, I'm the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country.  You can find me in the yellow pages, under "Wizards."  Believe it or not, I'm the only one there.  My ad looks like this:


You'd be surprised how many people call just to ask if I'm serious.  But then, if you'd seen the things I'd seen, if you knew half of what I knew, you'd wonder how anyone could not think I was serious.

Harry Dresden is a likable character, holding to his own ethical code, a little old fashioned, poor as a church mouse but a powerful wizard and a pretty good gum shoe.  He grows on you - think a of a paranormal Philip Marlow (maybe even a Rockford) with a snarky sense of humor.  He is down-to-earth, not full of himself and just a smidgen emotionally vulnerable.  I have to say there is one action fight scene that is nail-biting good where Harry is caught at the worst possible the shower, and fights au naturale- it is intense and then afterward it is laugh-out-loud funny.

I don't like the character Bob in this book as much as the one in the television series.  Bob struck me as self-centered and hedonistic - not a good combination.  Lieutenant Karrin Murphy is a classic cop who wants to like - maybe even trust Harry - but doesn't understand that sometimes he can't reveal everything to her and has to protect her from the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night.  So there is a tension between them which has me itching to read the next to find out how their potential friendship will develop.

The plot was good and kept my interest with a layering of problems that seem to weave a trap for Harry.  The plot is strong enough to carry the reader through and wonder how the heck will Harry get out of the seemingly impossible problems while staying within the White Council's directives on behavior.

Jim Butcher does an effective job of weaving modern day Chicago with a paranormal world.  I enjoyed the writing style which kept from becoming overly gloomy and managed to be engaging instead.

The various story lines are all tied up neatly and the climax manages to be an edge-of-your-seat ordeal.  Well done and I have become a new fan.

So if you like PI novels and have been wondering what all the Urban Fantasy ruckus is about, this would be a good book to check out and see if you like it - you find just find you are hooked.  If you are already an Urban Fantasy fan, you have probably read these already!

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J.H. Moncrieff said...

Sounds very interesting. I've never read a book in this genre, and wouldn't have conceived of a wizard PI, but based on your recommendation, I'm willing to give it a try.

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