Reread of Storm Front: Part 4

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 3!

Chapter 10

Dresden’s mechanic lends him a Studebaker while the Blue Beetle is in the shop. The first thing he does is call Linda Randall’s number. At first Linda is very flirty on the phone until Dresden reveals he’s calling about Jennifer Stanton. Linda gets quiet and in the background Harry can hear sounds of an airport. Linda finally says she can’t help, she’s working right now. She does not know anything about Jennifer’s murder and hangs up.

Harry deduces she is at O’Hare airport waiting to pick up her employers, the Beckitts. Harry hurries to O’Hare. At the concourse, Harry spots a silver limo in the loading zone. Harry heads to bank of pay phones and calls Linda again. He can see the driver of the silver limo move as Linda answers the phone. She lights up a cigarette, flirts briefly with Dresden, and hangs up a second time.

Harry walks over to the limo and knocks on the window. Linda rolls the window down, appraises Dresden, and guesses who he is. Linda is very flirty, and admits working for Bianca (a prissy bitch in her opinion). She and Jennifer were roommates and lovers then. They would often see Tommy Tomm together. Harry asked when she last saw Jennifer.

She took another drag, and this time I saw a small shake to her fingers, one she quickly hid. Just not quickly enough. She was nervous. Nervous enough to be shaking, and now I could see what she was up to. She was wearing the alley-cat mask, appealing to my glands, instead of my brain, and trying to distract me with it, trying to keep me from finding something.

I’m not inhuman. I can be distracted by a pretty face, or body, like any youngish man. Linda Randall was damned good at playing the part. But I do not like to be made the fool.

So, Miss Sex Goddess. What are you hiding?

Harry repeats his question and Linda stops flirting and asks if he’s a cop. Harry promises she’s not. She reluctantly tells him that she saw Jennifer on Wednesday. Jennifer wanted her to party with Tommy Tomm for his birthday. Linda had to work, so she declined. Linda admitted she hadn’t seen much of Jennifer since she left the Velvet Room. Harry asks if anyone would want to hurt Jennifer. Linda says no, Jennifer was a sweet girl.

The Beckitts arrive. Harry observes that neither were wedding rings, and both have blank faces, like survivors of German stalags. Linda lies, and says Harry is an old friend. Linda helps the Beckitts into the limo, and Mrs. Beckitt’s hand lingers intimately on Linda’s waist. Linda tells Harry to leave before she gets in trouble. Harry hands her his card and leaves.

Harry heads into a café, orders a coffee, and thinks what he should do next. He decides to track down the pizza deliver lead for the Monica Seller’s case. He goes back to the pay phones and calls the only pizza place in Lake Providence, Pizza ‘Spress.

Harry asks to talk to the driver who delivered to the Lake House on Wednesday. The guy on the phone agrees, and gets Jack, the delivery driver. Jack gets on and immediately apologizes again. Jack quickly explains that he won’t tell anyone, like he promised, and it’s none of his business what you guys were doing at the house. Harry asks what he saw, and Jack answers he saw no faces.

Harry presses Jack on what he saw, and Jack admits to seeing an orgy and some guy outside taking pictures. Jack hangs up. Harry realizes that Victor Sells is trying to cover his tracks, having already intimidated the pizza guy. The photographer explained the film canister Harry found, but not who the guy was or why he was talking pictures.

Harry returns home. Walking up to the house, a guy leaps out from behind a garbage can and hits Harry in the head with a baseball bat, knocking Harry to the ground. The attacker presses the bat against the back of Harry’s neck and threatens him with more violence if he doesn’t stop investigating. The attacker leaves. Harry manages to get into his house and collapse on into a chair.

I sat motionless until the spinning slowed down enough to allow me to open my eyes again, and until the pounding of my head calmed down. Pounding hard. Someone could have been pounding my head with a baseball bat just then, pounding my head into new and interesting shapes that were inconducive to carrying on businesslike pursuits. Someone could have been pounding Harry Dresden right into the hereafter.

I cut off that line of thought. “You are not some poor rabbit, Dresden!” I reminded myself, sternly. “You are a wizard of the old school, a spellslinger of the highest caliber. You’re not going to roll over for some schmuck with a baseball bat because he tells you to!”

Harry thinks Johnny Marcone is behind this attack. He had already once told Harry to butt out. Harry decides it prudent to start carrying his Smith & Wesson .38 Chief Special revolver with him and heads down into his lab to start working on the heart exploding spell.

My Thoughts

Linda Randall is a very jaded, young woman. She hides it with sex bunny act. She is jealous of the fact Jennifer never got jaded. While she claims she doesn’t know anything, she got scared fast when Harry started talking about Jennifer. We all see that how quickly she lies to her bosses about who Harry is. Maybe not the only lie she told.

The Beckitts are very disturbing. They both dress in suits, wear no jewelry, even their wedding rings, and their eyes and face look dead and numb. Something terrible happened to them and it seems like they almost don’t care anymore. They also have money. They are a piece to the puzzle.

I delivered pizza’s, and that whole scene where Harry calls the place and they just put on the driver doesn’t make sense. I would never let a customer talk to the driver without first knowing what he wanted. But, hey, I’m complaining about this in a world with magic.

Dresden thinks Johnny Marcone is behind the assault. This being detective fiction, the first guess is usually wrong. There are some clues to who the real culprit is if you use your brain and think, hmm, who else was intimidated in this chapter.

Chapter 11

Harry works all night and into the morning and figures out how the spell that killed Jennifer Stanton and Tommy Tomm worked. Either his calculations were wrong or he seriously underestimated the villain. Either way, Murphy needed to know.

Harry set off for run down station Murphy worked at. While waiting for Murphy, a pair of cops dragged in a handcuffed drug addict, obviously tweaking, struggling with the cops. Harry is sent upstairs and finds Murphy on the phone. She motions him to wait in the hallway. While waiting, the drug addict breaks free of the cops. He is screaming in fear of something and running blindly down the hallway towards Harry.

Harry tries to stop the man, but gets knocked down. Harry manages to reach out and grab the guys leg and trip him up, though. The drug addict looked at Harry with hugely dilated eyes.

“Wizard!” he trumpeted. “Wizard! I see you! I see you, wizard! I see the things that follow, those who walk before and He Who Walks Behind! They come, they come for you!”

The cops grab the junkie and drag him away, thanking Harry for the help. Harry asks what’s up with they guy. The cop answers that he’s high on ThreeEye, a drug that’s supposed to let you see into the spirit world. As the cops drag the junkie off, he continues to gibber about He Who Walks Behind.

Harry didn’t sense the aura about the guy signaling he had any power, so he’s confused how the junkie saw the shadow of He Who Walks Behind in Harry’s wake. Only another wizard should be able to see that with the Third Sight. When Harry was younger, an enemy sent He Who Walks Behind after Harry. It’s a badass hunter-spirit and Harry managed to beat the odds and survive. Apparently, Harry was wrong about the claims of ThreeEye.

I shuddered at the thought. The kind of things you see when you learn how to open your Third Eye could be blindingly beautiful, bring tears to your eyes—or they could be horrible things that made our worst nightmares seem ordinary and comforting. Visions of the past, the future, of the true nature of things. Psychic stains, troubled shades, spirit-folk of all description, the shivering power of the Nevernever in all its brilliant and subtle hues—and all going straight into your brain: unforgettable, permanent. Wizards quickly learn how to control the Third Eye, to keep it closed except in times of great need, or else they go mad within a few weeks.

Harry finds the thought of ordinary mortals inflicted with the Third Sight troubling. Even if they aren’t driven mad, monsters garbed by illusions, would react badly to their disguise being penetrated by the hapless mortal.

Murphy calls Harry into her office and hands him some coffee, charging him 50 cents. The first thing she does is unplug her computer so Harry doesn’t accidentally short it out and then asks Harry what he’s got. Harry explains the spell was done with thaumaturgy and was near impossible to pull off. They used fingernails or hair of the victims and a sacrificial doll to rip out their hearts and it would take a staggering amount of energy to pull off. Harry thinks he could do it to someone he really hated and not die. Two people would kill him. Murphy asks if they are looking for the Arnold Schwarzenegger of wizards.

Harry explains that a ritual spell where multiple wizards combine their energy could also accomplish the spell. As many as thirteen (the max possible). They all have to know each other and trust each other very well for it to work. A lot of fanaticism. Murphy thinks this is an attack on Bianca, but Harry reveals he saw Bianca last night and she isn’t involved.

Murphy is pissed at Harry, and he defends himself that Bianca would never talk to a mortal, but would talk to a wizard. Murphy forgives him on the condition he tells her what she said. Harry relays the info, and says this was probably aimed at Marcone. Harry explains what he just learned about ThreeEye and speculates the wizard who killed Jennifer and Tommy is probably the supplier behind the drug and is in a gang war with Marcone.

Murphy wants the names of anyone in Chicago who could cast the spell. Harry balks and Murphy threatens to arrest him for obstruction of justice. Harry says if he had any information he would share it and complains of the room spinning. Murphy exclaims that she can tell someone has already attacked Harry. Its her job to be in danger, not Harry’s. Harry starts to answer but the room begins to swim and he passes out.

My Thoughts

Concussion suck. Harry you really should see a doctor after a head wound like that.

ThreeEye could give you the greatest or worst trip of your life and is more addictive then crack. Of course their going to be friction with the mundane drug dealers. The escalation of magic into Chicago’s crimeworld is a continuing motif of the series.

Butcher Third Sight is a neat slant on a classic bit of magic from mythology. The great strength of the series, other than Harry’s snark and obstinacy, is Butcher incorporating mythology into his world, making them feel organic, and yet leaving them true to their roots. Thaumaturgy is another good example, using the classic Voodoo Doll to explain how it works.

Murphy and Dresden argument at the end of the chapter is the central one in their relationship. To Murphy, she’s the cop and he’s the civilian. No matter how skilled he is in magic, she sees him that way. Harry, as is obvious, sees himself as above her when it comes to supernatural stuff. Harry’s arrogance and Murphy’s sense of duty butt heads here and almost goes too far before Harry’s head trauma nap happens.

Chapter 12

Harry wakes up on the floor of Murphy’s office and she asks who hit him in the head. Harry lies and says he fell down the stairs. Murphy doesn’t think Harry’s fit to drive and tells him she will take him home. Harry protests, tries to stand up, and instead throws up. Murphy helps him clean up.

Murphy takes Harry home and helps him inside into a chair. The phone ring and Harry answers. It’s Linda Randall. Harry, still a little out of it, asks Lisa if she’s naked. Murphy arches an eyebrow as Linda gives a throaty laugh. Linda offers to meet Harry tonight. Harry thinks he has something to do tonight, but he can’t remember so agrees. Linda asks were, and Harry says he doesn’t have a car and offers to meet her at a 7-11 by his place. Linda counters by saying she’ll go home and freshen up, make herself pretty, and be at his place around 9 pm.

Murphy appeared again as soon as I hung up the phone. “Tell me you didn’t just make a date, Dresden.”

“You’re just jealous.”

Murphy snorted. “Please. I need more a man than you to keep me happy.” She started to get an arm beneath me to help me up. “You’d break like a dry stick, Dresden. You’d better get to bed before you get any more delusions.

Harry remembers he needs to do something. Murphy protests, saying he needs to get some rest. Harry just needs to give Monica Sells a call to check in. Harry calls the number she left and a boy answers the phone and Harry says he’s Monica’s cousin from Vermont. Monica answers, and nervously says she doesn’t need Harry’s services anymore and he can keep the money.

Harry is perplexed, but Murphy insists he go lie down. She helps him to his bed, gives him some water and aspirin, and checks his eyes with her penlight. She helped him undressed, tucked him, and kissed his forehead. As she was walking out, the phone rang again. She answered but no one was on the line. Murphy hangs up. Harry thanks her, calling her Karrin. Murphy smiles and leaves. As Harry drifted off to sleep, wondering if that was Monica calling back, and if not, who didn’t want to speak to Murphy.

My Thoughts

This is a short chapter, but really its sweet. Murphy must be a good friend to help you clean up vomit. She is very motherly to Dresden, not her usual gruff self. We get to see the true Murphy here, not the cop mode she usually is in. Between her job, and the old boys club mentality of the police, Murphy is usually more of a hard ass then she is in this chapter (wait until you see her house). And for the Harry-Murphy shippers, any women who you can vomit in front of and she still likes you is a keeper.

I am not a Harry-Murphy shipper though, even if the later books really seem to be about to embark on that voyage. I like the idea of them being really good friends without all the sex stuff, but the two do have a certain amount of sexual chemistry that grows. My ship, unfortunately, has sailed do to…messy complications, but my back-up one still has a chance.

Harry has indeed forgotten something import when he made his date with Lisa. He had already made a date with Susan tonight. Harry will undoubtedly learn to regret the mistake of inviting two women to his place at the same time. If this were a comedy, wacky hijinks are about to ensue.

This is a noir detective novel dressed with supernatural clothing.

Click here to continue on to Part 5!

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Reread of Storm Front: Part 3

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 2!

Chapter 7

Harry is startled by the appearance of the man with the sword. He almost attacks the man with magic, but instead causally greets the man, calling him Morgan. Harry explains that Toot had a choice and was not a mortal, so it wasn’t breaking the Fourth Law. Morgan calls that a technicality. Morgan is a Warden of the White Council, assigned to watch over Harry. Wardens are the police and executioners of the White Council.

Harry explains, he is on a missing person case and just called up the faerie to get some information. Since he is not using actual mind-control on the faerie, technically he did not violate the law, a technicality Harry is prepared to hide behind. Morgan doesn’t think it’s worth the effort of bringing it to the counsel, so sheathes his sword. Harry starts to leave, when Morgan grabs his shoulder and tells Harry, he’s not finished with him yet.

I didn’t dare mess around with Morgan when he was acting in his role as a Warden of the White Council. But he wasn’t wearing that hat now. Once he’d put the sword away, he was acting on his own, without any more official authority than any other man—or at least, that was the technical truth. Morgan was big on technicalities. He had scared the heck out of me and annoyed the heck out of me, in rapid succession. Now he was trying to bully me. I hate bullies.

So I took a calculated risk, used my free hand, and hit him as hard as I could in the mouth.

Morgan is incensed that Harry struck him. Harry tells him he is happy to cooperate on Council business, but Harry doesn’t have to put up with this on personal business. Morgan calls Harry an arrogant fool and Harry tenses himself for a fight. No law of magic protects Harry from Morgan punching him back, and Morgan has more experience and 100 lbs. on him.

Morgan accuses Harry of killing the two people at the hotel with magic. Morgan doesn’t know how, but he will figure it out and bring the evidence before the Council. Harry is taken aback that Morgan, and by extension, the White Council, thinks Harry is the killer. Harry realizes as the only wizard in Chicago that has killed with magic, albeit in self-defense, Harry is the prime suspect for the Council.

Harry protests, saying he is helping the police find the killer. Morgan is dismissive of mortal authority, and thinks Harry is just setting someone up to take the fall for the mortals.

“Good night, Morgan,” I told him. I started to walk away again, before I could let my mouth get me into more trouble.

He moved faster than I would have given a man his age credit for. His fist went across my jaw at approximately a million miles an hour, and I spun down tot he dirt like a string-cut puppet. For several long moments, I was unable to do anything at all, even breathe. Morgan loomed over me.

“We’ll be watching you, Dresden.” He turned and started walking away, the shadows of the evening quickly swallowing up his black coat. His voice drifted back to me. “We’ll find out what really happened.”

As Harry checks whether Morgan broke his jaw, his thoughts drift back to the reason he is under the Doom of Damocles. When he was a teenager, the wizard he was apprenticed to tried to seduce him to Black wizardry. Harry resisted and his mentor tried to kill him. Harry, by luck more than skill, managed to kill his mentor with his magic. However, the First Law of Magic is “Thou shall not kill.” Harry managed to convince the White Council it was self-defense, so instead of the death penalty, they put him on parole. One slip up, and he will be executed.

Finding the real killer has become a lot more important for Harry and he is now more resolved to go speak with Bianca the Vampire behind Murphy’s back.

My Thoughts

Morgan is a dick!

We start to see why Harry has such a problem with authority figures. If my mentor tried to seduce me to the dark side and then I was force to kill him, I might have a similar problem. And of course, the other wizards put him on trial instead of giving him a medal for getting rid of a bad dude. And now he’s the equivalent to an innocent man who’s been in prison and is out on parole and everyone still thinks he’s the bad guy.

Pretty big chip to carry.

Harry has a hard time backing down. It’s what makes him a great hero and always getting into dangerous situations, but he also talks himself into worse problems and makes bitter enemies as a result of his lack of tact.

And I’m glad Harry is learning that sometimes its better to shut up then provoke the guy that just cold cocked you so hard he dropped you. He doesn’t quite understand diplomacy (and may never will), but at least he has some modicum of self-control and doesn’t talk himself into getting killed. Harry walks that fine line.

There is also a lot more to the confrontation with Harry’s mentor that we get latter on. My understanding about Storm Front is Butcher wrote it years before he started writing the rest of the Dresden novels and there seem to be some inconsistencies in Storm Front from the latter novels. For instance, Wardens always wear a gray cloak, it’s the symbol of their office. Morgan’s description doesn’t have him wearing his in this chapter, and he mentions killing Bianca with a stake in the next chapter, but that would make her Black Court Vampire, and she is a Red Court, something else not established until book 3.

Chapter 8

Harry lives in a basement apartment. Mister, a large tomcat that Harry found badly injured three years ago, waits at the bottom of the stairs for Harry to let in. Like most cats, Mister believed the apartment was his, and merely tolerates the presences of Harry. Because Harry has such an effect on technology, Harry has no power in his apartment. Luckily, there is a fireplace that works.

Harry lights a fire for Mister and then dons a flannel bathrobe. Harry heads down into the subbasement where his lab is. The real reason wizards wear robes is to stay warm in their labs. On the floor of his lab is a brass summoning circle. The walls are lined with shelves full of various ingredients in Tupperware, jars, and other containers. Several books, a row of his notebooks, and a human skull, also rest on the shelves. The first thing Harry does is order Bob to wake up.

Bob the Skull grumbled something in Old French, I think, though I got lost when he got to the anatomical improbabilities of bullfrogs. He yawned, and his bony teeth rattled when his mouth clicked closed again. Bob wasn’t really a human skull. He was a spirit of air—sort of like a faery, but different. He made his residences inside the skull that had been prepared for him several hundred years ago, and it was his job to remember things. For obvious reasons, I can’t use a computer to store information and keep track of the slowly changing laws of quasiphysics. That’s why I have Bob. He had worked with dozens of wizards over the years, and it had given him a vast repertoire of knowledge—that, and a really cocky attitude. “Blasted wizards,” he mumbled.

Harry tells Bob that he wants to make a couple of potions and explains the situation to Bob. Bob tells Harry he could help, if Harry would let him out of the skull. Harry refuses, remembering the trouble Bob caused at a sorority last time. For a spirit of intellect, Bob is really obsessed with sex. Bob calls it academic research, and Harry calls it voyeurism. The pair argue, and Bob demands to know how long its been since Harry has been on a date. Harry reveals his dinner plans with Susan on Saturday.

Bob asks for a description, and after Harry describes Susan Bob asks how Harry got such a pretty girl to out with him. Harry changes the subject and tells Bob they’re going to make an escape potion. Bob refuses to help Harry with the escape potion unless he also makes a love potion. Harry threatens to throw Bob down the deepest well he can find, but Bob knows he is far to valuable to get rid of.

Harry resists the urge to smash the skull and counts to 30 to calm down. Love potions are cheap and would give Bob a vicarious thrill. Harry doesn’t have to use it, after all. Harry tells Bob he’ll make the love potion.

Bob’s eye lights came up warily. “You’re sure? You’ll do the love potion, just like I say?”

“Don’t I always make the potions like you say, Bob?”

“What about that diet potion you tried?”

“Okay. That one mistake.”

And the antigravity potion, remember that?”

“We fixed the floor! It was no big deal!”

“And the—“

“Fine, fine,” I growled. “You don’t have to rub it in. Now cough up the recipes.”

Every potion has eight ingredients: a liquid base, something to engage all five sense, something for the mind, and something for the spirit. Every potion is different for every person making the potion and Bob is very good at understanding which ingredients would be needed for which wizard making it.

For the escape potion: liquid base (Jolt cola), smell (motor oil), touch (bird’s feather), taste (chocolate covered espresso beans), sight (a shadow), hearing (mouse scampers), mind (bus ticket), and spirit (broken chain). This version of the escape potion will turn the imbiber into the wind for a few minutes. Harry is unsure of it, never having heard of this potion before. Bob says it will work since he is an air spirit.

For the love potion: liquid base (tequila), smell (perfume), touch (shredded lace), taste (dark chocolate), sight (candlelight), hearing (sigh), mind (fifty dollar bill), and spirit (shredded pages of a romance novel). Harry objects to this potion a lot. Usually, champagne is used as the base. Harry thinks the tequila will produce a sleazier result. Bob wanted the ashes of a love letter for the spirit and powdered diamond for the mind, but Harry was fresh out of both. Luckily, Harry got a paid in fifties by Monica today, and Bob has a collection of trashy romance novels.

The next step was infusing the ingredients with magic to transform them into potions. Harry gathers his emotional energy (worry, annoyance, and stubbornness) and focus them on the potions while muttering quasi-Latin phrases. Finished, and tired from the effort, Harry puts the potions into squeezable sports bottles and clearly labels them. Bob assures Harry that these are top notch potions.

Exhausted, Harry climbs up the ladder and stumbles to his bed and lies down. Mister, as usual, climbs up on his bed, gets settle, and begins “purring like a miniature outboard motor.”

My Thoughts

Mister the Cat is very much a cat. Arrogant, thinks he is in charge, and that Harry is there to serve him. I’m not a cat person for the reasons Jim Butcher lists in the story, but Harry likes his cat, and he is useful in some of the latter books.

Bob the Skull is awesome. He and Harry make a great odd couple, always bickering, Bob always criticizing his love life. Harry almost always has to bribe Bob to get him to help out. But Bob knows when Harry is really desperate and will help then.

The method Butcher came up with for potions is really great and creative. And the fact that harry has such weird things stored: “a flickering shadow in a handkerchief” or a jar of sighs. The potions are made out of such mundane items, though a few are magically held. It is really neat. I wish he used potions more often in the later books, because I always enjoyed the ingredients he comes up with for them.

And poor Harry, his last fifty for the love potion. There goes it being cheap.

Chapter 9

Harry is awoken late Friday afternoon by a call from Murphy. Despite having no electricity in his apartment, he does have a phone. She asks for a progress report, and he says nothing yet, lying that he worked on it all last night. The case is not going well, and Murphy needs the info pronto. Murphy, and her unit, are the scapegoats of the Chicago PD. Any unsolvable crime was dumped in their laps. Harry asks if she spoke to Bianca yet.

Another swear word. “That bitch won’t talk to us. Just smiles and nods and blows smoke, makes small talk, and crosses her legs. You should have seen Carmichael drooling.”

Harry floats the option of him speaking with Bianca, and Murphy shuts it down and explicitly tells him not to go to the Velvet Room. Harry lies, but Murphy hears it in his voice (Harry is a bad liar) and threatens to lock him up. Harry pulls the old bad connection gag and hangs up on her.

Harry eats and gets ready for his visit to Bianca after nightfall. The most important part of wizardy is preparation. Harry gets his cane, puts a silver knife up his sleeve, grabs the escape potion, a white handkerchief containing sunlight, and a silver pentacle talisman that belonged to his mother. Harry leaves behind his staff and blasting rod, not wanting to spook Bianca by bringing the equivalent of a flamethrower and machine gun.

The Velvet Room resided in a mansion on the lake. Harry pulls up to the gate and his car brakes down. A guard comes out and Harry tells him he’s hear to see Bianca and asks if the guard can call his mechanic, Mike, to get his car towed. Harry walks up the driveway but is stopped and searched, his knife and cane confiscated. Harry has to rely solely on magic now. Luckily, the guard didn’t take his pentacle, not realizing to Harry it is a symbol of his faith in magic, and like a crucifix to a believer, will have the same effect on a vampire.

Bianca the Vampiress appears to be a very beautiful women in a black dress with a plunging neckline. They exchange pleasantries, and Bianca asks him what he wants from her. Harry puts his hand in his pocket, grabbing the handkerchief. Harry tells her he’s hear about Jennifer Stanton’s murder.

I had all of a second’s warning. Bianca’s eyes narrowed, then widened, like those of a cat about to spring. Then she was coming at me over the table, faster than a breath, her arms extended toward my throat.

Harry pulls out the handkerchief and the sunlight hits Bianca like a sledgehammer, throwing her back. Even though Harry moved first, her fingernails still managed to graze his throat. The sunlight sent burned skin flying off Bianca and her true form is revealed.

I had never seen a real vampire before. I would have time to be terrified later. I took in the details as I tugged my talisman off my neck. It had a bat-like face, horrid and ugly, the head too big for its body. Gaping, hungry jaws. Its shoulders were hunched and powerful. Membranous wings stretched between the joints of its almost skeletal arms. Flabby black breasts hung before it, spilling out of the black dress that no longer looked feminine. Its eyes were wide, black, and staring, and a kind of leathery, slimy hide covered its flesh, like an inner tube lathered with Vaseline, though there were tiny holes corroded in it by the sunlight I had brought with me.

Harry uses his pentacle to keep her at bay and tells her he just came to talk. The vampire accuses Harry of killing Jennifer, one her prostitutes. Harry tries to explain that he is just helping the police. The pair are at a standoff, and both agree to stand down. Harry agrees and lowers his amulet and she resumes her disguise. Harry can’t get the image of the true Bianca out of his head, and she is not quite as beautiful to him anymore.

Bianca explains that Tommy Tomm was just a regular at the Velvet room. Bianca is protective of her girls and Tommy was a good guy. She sent Jennifer to him that night. Harry asks if anyone saw Jennifer on a regular basis, someone who would want to kill her. Bianca says no.

Bianca is still furious at Harry, and he realizes she is embarrassed that he saw her real form. Bianca wants to be seen as beautiful, and Harry had destroyed that illusion. Bianca swears that she would kill him if they hadn’t agreed on a truce. Harry warns her that would be dangerous, that she has something to lose. Even if she did kill him, his death curse would get her.

Bianca breaks and begins to cry and Harry feels bad. Dully, she tells Harry that Jennifer had a friend, Linda Randall. Linda used to work at the Velvet room, but now works for a rich couple who wanted a servant who does more than just clean. Bianca offers to get Harry her phone number and Harry thanks her.

Bianca smells the blood from Harry’s neck wound and orders him to leave, trying to control her hunger. She tells him Rachel will bring down the numbers. Harry gets up and as he leaves, Bianca swears she will get revenge on Harry. As Harry exits Bianca’s office, Rachel, a lovely young woman, passes Harry and enters Bianca’s office. Harry watcher her pull up the sleeve of her blouse and offer her wrist to Bianca.

Horrified and fascinated, Harry watches Bianca feed on Rachel and notices the the girl act like she’s on a narcotic. Bianca cuts her wrist open with her fangs and laps up the blood with her tongue. Rachel begins moaning in pleasure. Harry quickly heads outside, disturbed how Rachel willingly went to Bianca and allowed her to feed off her like Bianca was her lover. Harry speculates that Bianca’s saliva was a narcotic.

Outside, the security guard returns Harry’s weapons and a tow truck has arrived and is hooking up the blue beetle. A call comes to the guardhouse, and the guard hands Harry a piece of paper. Harry asks why Rachel didn’t bring it down.

He [the guard] didn’t say anything. But his jaw tightened, and I saw his eyes flick toward the house, where his mistress was. He swallowed. Rachel wasn’t coming out of the house, and Fido was afraid.

I took the paper. I kept my hand from shaking as I looked at it.

On it was a phone number. And a single word. Regret.

I folded the piece of paper in half and put it away into the pocket of my duster. Another enemy. Super. At least with my hands in my pockets, Fido couldn’t see them shaking. Maybe I should have listened to Murphy. Maybe I should have stayed at home and played with some nice, safe, forbidden black magic instead.

My Thoughts

An intense chapter.

Bianca is not your typical vampire. In latter books, Butcher will call her type a Red Court vampire. He appearance, tuning into a bat monster, and how in latter books you kill a Red Court vampire, are very similar to chiropteran of Blood the Last Vampire. Both Blood and Storm Front came out the same year, so I can only assume they both drew on a similar monster from mythology or both came up with same creature independently of each other.

Harry’s encounter with Bianca will have repercussions down the road. Butcher is very good at making Harry experience the consequences of his actions, whether they were the right thing to do or not. Harry will make a lot of mistakes through the series and they always come to bite him in the ass.

Bianca is an interesting character. She is very protective of her employees, making sure her johns will not hurt them. She tries to kill Dresden because she thinks he is the only one in Chicago who could have killed Jennifer. When Harry hurts her and she reveals her true form, she is embarrassed. She is a vain vampire, one who prides herself on appearing seductive and beautiful.

Supernatural creatures, especially ones that have been around a few centuries, are very big on old world hospitality. When oaths are sworn for truces, they are usually honored. Although when dealing with such creatures, they tend to hold to the letter of their oaths.

NOTE: Older editions call Rachel by the name Paula. When Butcher wrote a later book where Bianca returns, he mixed the name up and called her Rachel. Newer editions of Storm Front of fixed this error.

Click her read Part 4!

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Reread of Storm Front: Part 2

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 1!

Chapter 4

Harry returns to his office to find Monica-No-Name writing on the back of the note he left for her. Harry apologizes for being late, explaining he consults for the police. Monica is surprised to learn that.

Harry invites her into the office, and she seems very nervous. Monica’s husband is missing and she wants Harry to locate him. Her husband had packed up a few things and left, and she hasn’t seen him in three days. Harry asks Monica why she approached him instead of the police.

Monica reveals that since her husband lost his job, he has been getting into magic. She thinks the police will dismiss it as a husband walking out on his family. Harry offers to refer her to a private eye, but Monica thinks Harry’s familiarity with magic will help him locate her husband. Harry asks a few background questions about her husband, including his name. Obviously lying, Monica says her husband is George.

Monica is reluctant to give her husband’s real name for fear of Harry using magic against him. Harry gives her a sell on its bad for business for him to abuse such information, and that she can trust him, etc. Convinced, she tells Harry his name is Victor Sells. Monica thinks Victor may be using their house on Lake Providence.

Harry and Monica hammer out the bill ($50/hour plus expenses). Monica hands Harry an envelop with $500. Finally, Monica hands Harry an envelop with contact information, a picture of Victor, and a third envelop containing an amulet her husband had left behind. Monica says her goodbyes and leaves. Harry opens the envelop and sees it is made from a dead scorpion.

I shuddered. Scorpions were symbolically powerful in certain circles of belief. They weren’t usually symbols of anything good or wholesome, either. A lot of petty, mean spells could be focused around a little talisman like that. If you wore it next to your skin, as such things are supposed to be worn, the prickly legs of the thing would be a constant poking and agitation at your chest, a continual reminder that it was there. The dried stinger and the tail’s tip might actually pierce the skin of anyone who tried to give the wearer a hug. Its crablike pincers would catch in a man’s chest hair, or scratch and the curves of a woman’s breasts. Nasty, unpleasant thing. Not evil, as such—but you sure as hell weren’t likely to do happy shiny things with magic with such an item around your neck.

Harry is starting to think Victor may have actually gotten into the Art. Many newbie sorcerer’s think they need to isolate themselves to learn magic. Isolation just allows weak or untrained minds to concentrate better.

While calling hospitals to look for John Does matching Victor’s description, Harry thought he saw the scorpion move out of the corner of his eye. Harry reaches out with his sense but doesn’t detect anything unnatural about the amulet other than its creepy.

My Thoughts

Harry thinks Monica looks very familiar, but dismisses it. Always pay attention when an author says that, particularly when you’re in the noir/mystery genre which the Dresden Files definitely has one foot firmly planted in. Not too many characters introduced so far to remind Dresden, but he does compare her natural blond to the bottle blond of the dead woman.

Monica is very nervous and cagey around Harry. She knows not to look him in they eyes, reluctant to give Harry real names, and gives Harry that amulet. I think she knows more about magic and wizards then she’s letting on.

That is one creepy amulet you made their, Victor. And who names their kids Victor unless you want them to be creepy. What choice did Victor have but to grow up, find magic during a mid-life crisis, and make creepy, scorpion amulets.

And bad, Harry. When a creepy, possibly magical amulet twitches, don’t ignore it. You will regret it. Especially when it was made by a guy named Victor.

The private investigator Harry would probable refer Monica to is Nick Angel, the PI Harry worked as an apprentice to get his investigation license. There are short stories, I’ve not read, about this. Nick Angel’s name rarely gets brought up in the main series.

Chapter 5

Harry heads to McAnally’s pub. The pub is place that the supernatural crowd likes to hang out. Mac is used to the problems caused by wizards so there are no electronics to short out. The bar has thirteen of everything; bar stool, tables, windows, mirrors, and columns. The layout of the bar dissipates energies that tend to gather around wizards. Mac rarely ever speaks in more than grunts or single word sentences.

Harry’s calls to the morgues had not turned up Victor Sell’s body, and Harry has come down to McAnally’s to enjoy Mac’s home brewed beer and a steak sandwich. Harry talks about his day with Mac when a newspaper catches his eye. The front page is about a ThreeEye rampage. ThreeEye is a new drug that is supposed to give the user the third sight. Harry thinks its a bunch of crap.

Susan Rodriguez, reporter for the Arcane, walks up to the bar. The Arcane is a magazine that covered supernatural and the paranormal. Usually the report on bogus stories you see in the tabloids, but occasionally the report on true supernatural events like the Unseelie Incursion of 1994 when the entire city of Milwaukee had vanished for two hours. Susan had interviewed Harry when he started his own business and had fainted when she and Harry had soulgazed.

Flirting, Susan tries to get harry to tell her about what happened at the Madison. Harry refuses because of a nondisclosure agreement with Chicago P.D. She persist, asking for something off the record.

“Can’t help you, Susan,” I told her. “Wild horses couldn’t drag it out of me, et cetera.”

“Just a hint,” she pressed. “A word of comment. Something shared between two people who are very attracted to one another.”

“Which two people would that be?”

She put an elbow on the counter and propped her chin in her hand, studying me through narrowed eyes and thick, long lashes. One of the things that appealed to me about her was that even though she used her charm and femininity relentlessly in pursuit of her stories, she had no concept of just how attractive she really was—I had seen that when I looked within her last year. “Harry Dresden,” she said, “you are a thoroughly maddening man.” Her eyes narrowed a bit further. “You didn’t look down my blouse even once, did you,” she accused.

Harry claims he is pure of heart and mind as his excuse for not ogling her. While she laughs, he takes the opportunity to look down her blouse. Susan starts asking Harry yes and no questions about the case, knowing that Harry is a poor liar. In the midst of those questions, she asks Harry to dinner on Saturday. Harry is flustered and she tells him to be ready at 9 and to dress nicely. Harry agrees, still confused, not sure if agreed to a date or an interrogation. Mac brings harry his steak sandwich.

Harry asks Mac why he agreed to the date with Susan. It will be hard for him not to let slip any details about the case. Mac grunts. Harry points out she is very attractive, and he is “red-blooded male” so a slip of judgment is to be expected. Mac calls Harry dumb.

Harry realizes that his plans to go out to the Lake House to look for Victor on Saturday is ruined and he has to head out tonight. Tomorrow, Friday, he plans on going to see Bianca (despite Murphy’s orders). Harry’s thoughts about his date/interrogation with Susan dredges up the memory of past relationships.

I had been a miserable failure in relationships, ever since my first love went sour. I mean, a lot of teenage guys fail in their first relationships.

Not many of them murder the girl involved.

I shied away from that line of thought, lest it bring up too many old memories.

My Thoughts

Mac is a lot like Silent Bob, he speaks mostly in grunts or one words, and then out of the blue he says complete sentences. He also brews great bear and makes a mean steak.

Harry is not used to flirting and Susan is great at keeping him off balanced. Harry is never sure if she really is attracted to him or if she is just after the story. With Susan, its both. It is hilarious that Harry makes the comment of being pure of heart and then looks down her blouse. He is still a guy.

I just want to say, I heart Susan. She’s a great character, always keeping Harry off-balanced, but she’s not just flirting with him to get the story. She does like him. I really ship these characters.

The Unseelie Incident sounds like it’s own book, an entire American City vanishing for two hours and replaced by a field. I wonder how the in-universe spin would explain that? In faerie lore, they often get broken down into Seelie and Unseelie courts. Summer is Seelie and seen is “good” compared to Winter. They tend to get referred to as Summer and Winter through the remainder of the novels, but Unseelie pops up in the Unseelie Accords, something akin to international law for the supernatural world.

Harry’s thoughts turn real dark there at the end. In his mind he believes he killed his girlfriend (Elaine). There is more to the story (Book 4 provides quite a lot of info as well as Book 13) and it is directly tied into the Doom of Damocles that hangs over his head.

Chapter 6

Harry stops by his basement apartment after McAnally’s to feed his cat, Mister. He picks up his car, the Blue Beetle, a beat up old VW bug that has seen better days. Harry’s mechanic, Mike, has kept it running through various monster encounters. After so much body damage, the Blue Beetle has barely any blue on it anymore.

Dresden heads out to the Sells’s lake house up I-94. Lake Providence is a place with very expensive houses, and though the Sells’s house isn’t as big as some of the others, Harry speculates that Victor most have made decent money before he lost his job. Harry takes a look around the exterior and finds a red, film canister. Harry keeps the canister since they make great containers for magical ingredients.

The house is locked, and while Harry could break in and hex the security system, its bad “juju” to enter a house uninvited. For a supernatural, it can really interfere with them holding their physical form together, for a wizard it can make it hard to use magic inside. It’s also bad manners. Harry rings the doorbell, but no one answers. Something nags at Harry, and he thinks someone has been staying in the house recently.

Harry decides to summon a local faerie to question. He makes a circle in the dirt, covers it with leaves, and leaves a thimble of milk, a bowl of honey, and a piece of bread with Harry’s blood on the bottom. The trap is set to catch a faerie.

There are two parts of magic for faerie catching. One, you have to no the faerie’s True Name. If you no a True Name, you can create a link with magic. And knowing the name is not enough, you have to know how to exactly pronounce it. The second part to faerie catching is a magic circle. A magic circle sets a limit on the magic being performed, helps the wizard focus and direct more easily. It also blocks outside energy. A circle also can trap magical creatures (faeries) or keep them out. That’s what the blood is for on the bread. When the faerie eats the blood, it will power the circle and trap the faerie inside.

Harry summons a faerie who’s real name is quite beautiful, but goes by Toot-Toot. Harry puts just enough of his will in it to make Toot-Toot to subconsciously come here. After ten minutes, Toot-Toot comes flying over the lake and cautiously approaches the circle. Toot-Toot is about six inches tall and has a silver glow. Bread, milk, and honey were a “common vice of the lower fae.”

For several minutes, Toot-Toot circles the food and eventually his greed outweighs his caution and he dives into the circle and begins to eat, setting off the trap. Toot-Toot becomes angry and tries to escape, bouncing off the invisible walls of the circle.

“I should have known!” he exclaimed, as I approached from the trees. His voice was high-pitched, but more like a little kid’s than the exaggerated kind of faery voices I’d heard in cartoons. “Now I remember where I’ve seen those plates before! You ugly, sneaky, hamhanded, big-nosed, flat-footed mortal worm!”

“Hiya, Toot,” I told him. “Do you remember our deal from last time, or do we need to go over it again?”

Toot glared defiantly up at me and stomped his foot on the ground. More silver faery dust puffed out from the impact. “Release me!” he demanded. “Or I will tell the Queen!”

“If I don’t release you,” I pointed out, “you can’t tell the Queen. And you know just as well as I do what she would say about any dewdrop faery who was silly enough to get himself caught with a lure of bread and milk and honey.”

Toot threatens to curse Harry, but Harry is impatient and tells Toot to hurry along. Toot is a little hurt, and sulkily tells Harry he could have pretended to be afraid. Toot goes on a rant, but gets distracted by the high quality bread and milk (no preservatives) Harry has left for him. Harry and Toot negotiate a deal where Toot would tell him what’s been going on at the lake house in the last few days in exchange for Harry releasing him. Harry makes Toot promise three times, since that is close to truth as you can get from a faerie.

Harry breaks the circle and Toot flies off. After 30 minutes, Toot returns and tries to make Harry guess what he learned. Harry, impatiently, tells Toot to just spit it out. Toot accuses Harry of being no fun and reasons that’s why Harry doesn’t date often. Toot reveals that the faerie spy on Harry. Harry is startled to discover that.

Finally, Toot tells him what another faerie, Goldeneyes, told him. Last night, Goldeneyes, drove up here on top of a pizza delivery car to the Lake House. Goldeneyes said the mortals were sporting (faerie term for activity involving nudity and lust) and needed to regain their strength. Harry is surprised to learn that faeries love pizza and promises Toot to have the occasional pizza delivered up here for the help. Harry asks for which pizza company delivered last night, but the concept of different brands goes over Toot’s head.

Harry is beginning to think that Victor Sells was cheating on his wife and she was just in denial. Harry gather his supplies and turns to find a man with sword walking towards him.

“Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Irresponsible use of true names for summoning and binding others to your will violates the Fourth Law of Magic,” the man intoned. “I remind you that you are under the Doom of Damocles. No further violations of the Laws will be tolerated. The sentence for further violation is death, by the sword, to be carried out at once.”

My Thoughts

The film canister kinda dates this book. Butcher wrote in the 90s and it was published way back in 2000, when people still had cameras with film and not SD cards. The question is, who was there taking pictures. Another P.I. involved?

Toot-Toot is hilarious. The way he gets mad at Harry for not following the routine of back and forth threats and just once to cut to the chase is priceless. And, of course faeries like pizza, Harry. Everyone likes pizza. Faeries just aren’t good at brand recognition. No one’s perfect, Harry.

Harry’s mental image of a bunch of little faeries peeking through his window is a little creepy. Apparently, that’s what these dewdrop faeries do. They also like to spy on teenager’s making out and play tricks on them.

Victor being a creep continues. Having a love nest and cheating on your nice wife, what a creep. Of course, we’re in a detective novel and still very early in the story. Is he a wizard? And what does this have to do with Tommy Tomm and the girl’s murders?

And now Morgan enters the story, the guy with a sword and stick up his backside. We’ll learn more about him in the next chapter.

Click her to continue on to Part 3!

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Reread of Storm Front: Part 1

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Intro!

Chapter 1

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a Chicago P.I. struggling to pay the bills. His mailman, after mocking him for his crazy claims, dropped off a late notice on his office rent. Harry isn’t your usual P.I., he’s a wizard. The only wizard to advertise in the phone book:

HARRY DRESDEN—WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advise. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other
Entertainment

It had been a slow couple of months for Harry. He was late on February’s rent, and it looked like he was going to be late on March. The only client he had recently was a drugged out country singer who thought his mansion was haunted (it wasn’t). Out of the blue, Harry’s phone rings.

On the line is a woman who is looking to hire Dresden to find her husband. She is very nervous and when Dresden asks her name, she pauses for a moment before answering as “Monica.” Dresden thinks she is scared to give her real name to a wizard because a wizard could use it against them. After some coaxing, Dresden convinces her to come down to his office at 2:30 pm. Harry hangs up and the phone rings again. It is Detective Karrin Murphy, Chicago P.D.

Karrin Murphy was the director of Special Investigations out of downtown Chicago, a de facto appointee of the Police Commissioner to investigate any crimes dubbed unusual. Vampire attacks, troll mauraudings, and fairy abductions of children didn’t fit in very neatly on a police report—but at the same time, people got attacked, infants got stole, property was damage or destroyed. And someone had to look into it.

Harry was a consultant for Murphy in the supernatural and she had a pair of dead bodies at the Madison Hotel. Magic The tone of Murphy’s voice scares Dresden. It must be a bad scene to shake her up.

Dresden leaves a note for “Monica Ask-Me-No-Questions,” saying he’ll be back for her appointment and heads out to the Madison. As he heads down the stairs, Dresden speculates that if magic was involved in the murders, then the killer would want to take out the only consulting wizard to Chicago P.D.

My Thoughts

The moment I read Dresden’s ad in the phone book, I knew I was going to love this book. I devoured it, finished Storm Front in one sitting and had to go and get the next in the series. Unlike in a lot of urban fantasy, our hero doesn’t hide who he is from the muggles. And love the Tolkien nod. Dresden is definitely not subtle but is quick to anger. And snark.

I will admit, the one thing I dislike is Dresden’s effect on technology. I’ve never been a fan of magic and technology as mutual exclusive. I can get that maybe he’s sending out energy that may cause some interference, but some of the things he effects are purely mechanical and not sensitive electronics.

Suddenly, Dresden now has two completely unrelated cases coming on the heels of each other, and one is a gruesome murder. But, since we are into a noirish detective pulp novel territory, I have a feeling they will intersect before the end.

Figuring out how everything relates in a Dresden novel is always fun. And they only get crazier in intersecting plot points later.

Chapter 2

Dresden meets Murphy out front of the Madison. Karrin Murphy is a blonde, petite woman, who could kick your ass. She has a black belt in aikido and several tournament trophies. Murphy makes fun of Dresden choice in jackets, a black canvas duster, saying it belongs on the set of El Dorado. Harry makes a deliberate point to beat her to the door so he can hold it open for her. Harry has a strong chivalrous tendencies. As an added bonus, he knows it irritates Murphy.

On the elevator ride up, Harry notices Murphy is more tense then usual. When the doors of the elevator opens, the coppery smell of blood fills the air. Murphy leads Harry into a lavish hotel suite. The outer room has all the signs of a romantic liaison: champagne on ice, rose petals strewn on the floor, low, sensual music in the CD player.

Murphy heads into the bedroom, leaving Harry to poke around the first room. Detective Carmichael, Murphy’s partner, enters. Carmichael has a strong dislike of Dresden, thinking he is a fraud and has no problem expressing this opinion. After some verbal judo, Carmichael leads Dresden into the bedroom. Dresden is not prepared for what he finds in there.

They must have died sometime in the night before, as rigor mortis had set in. They were on the bed; she was astride him, body leaned back, back bowed like a dancer’s, the curves of her breasts making a lovely outline. He stretched beneath her, a lean and powerfully built man, arms reaching out and grasping at the sating sheets, gathering them in fists. Had it been an erotic photograph, it would have made a striking tableau.

Except that the lovers’ rib cages on the upper left side of their torsos had expanded outwards, through their skin, the ribs jabbing out like ragged, snapped knives.

Harry Dresden focus on the scene, ignoring the gibbering voice in his head telling him to get out. The woman was in her twenties, the man in forties. He has scars on knuckles and a scar from a knife wound on his stomach. Murphy asks if they are dealing with magic.

“Either that or it was really incredible sex,” I told her.

Carmichael snorted.

At that joke, however, Dresden’s self control flees him, and he darts out of the room to vomit in a bucket left by Carmichael just for that occasion. After vomiting, Dresden thinks on the scene. Someone had used magic, broken the First Law. The White Council would not be pleased. This was definitely not the work of some monster from the Nevernever. It was the work of a human wizard.

For Harry, magic is life, and the thought of someone twisting that force to kill sickens him. Murphy asks Harry for his interpretation on what happens. Harry explains that there are two ways to do this. The first is Evocation, which is direct and messy. Harry doesn’t think this is the method since the killer would have had to been in the room and would have left some physical evidence.

The second method is Thaumaturgy, a school of magic where you perform something on a small scale to effect something larger, like using a voodoo doll. The killer would need a part of the victim: hair, fingernails, blood. Harry also thinks that the killer knew the victim and that it was a woman. Carmichael thinks this is BS, but Murphy asks Harry to explain.

“The way magic works. Whenever you do something with it, it comes from inside of you. Wizards have to focus on what they’re trying to do, visualize it, believe in it, to make it work. You can’t make something happen that isn’t a part of you, inside. The killer could have murdered them both and made it look like an accident, but she did it this way. To get it done this way, she would have had to want them dead for very personal reasons, to be willing to reach inside them like that. Revenge, maybe. Maybe you’re looking for a lover or a spouse.

Harry further explains that the emotions released during sex would make a path for the magic. Murphy asks why Harry thinks it was a woman. Harry thinks that a lot of hate went into this and women are better at hate then men are. “This feels like feminine vengeance of some kind to me.”

Murphy asks if a man could do this and Harry isn’t sure, he’s never done the calculations on what it would take to do this spell to begin with. Murphy wants Harry to figure it out. Harry lies and says he’s not sure he can figure it out.

Harry asks who the victims are, and Carmichael gets angry. Murphy asks her partner for coffee and he stalks off. Murphy explains the woman is Jennifer Stanton who worked at the Velvet Room. The Velvet Room is a high class brothel run by a vampiress named Bianca. Murphy wanders if this is a vampire territorial dispute. Dresden doubts Bianca is fighting a human sorcerer.

The man was Tommy Tomm, a bodyguard to mobster “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone who ran Chicago’s organized crime. Marcone had civilized crime to an extent. He believed violence was bad for business of making money.

Murphy confronts Dresden on his lie and wants to know why. Dresden has never told her about the White Council, the governing body of wizards, and how he has the Doom of Damocles (Wizard probation) hanging over him. If the council found out about him researching a murder spell, he would be executed. Harry tells Murphy he can’t research the spell without telling her why he can’t.

Murphy gets pissed, and threatens to stop using Dresden as a consultant. Harry needs the consulting gig to pay the bills and caves in, hoping the Council would not find out what he’s doing, or at least, understand why he was researching the spell.

Murphy walks Dresden out of the hotel, and Harry remembers his appointment with Monica, and races back to his office at a quick run because he’s late. A few blocks he slows to a walk while a blue Cadillac pulls up and a large man steps out. Two more men step behind Harry and they tell him to get into the car.

“I like to walk. It’s good for the heart.”

“You don’t get in the car, it isn’t good for your legs,” the man [Hendricks] growled.

Dresden peers into the car where a man in a sports jacket and jeans waits. The man wants to talk to Dresden and offers him a ride back to his office. The man is Johnny Marcone. Dresden glances at Hendricks, who growls under his breath like Cujo.

So I got into the back of the Caddy with Gentleman Johnny Marcone.

It was turning out to be a very busy day. And I was still late for my appointment.

My Thoughts

Karrin Murphy’s description reminds me a lot of Buffy Summers, a petite, blonde girl that looks like a high school cheerleader but who can kick your ass. While her personality isn’t Buffy’s, the deliberate contrast of stereotypes is.

I love the banter and smart alec remarks in the Dresden novels. And they begin with Murphy making fun of his jacket and Dresden deliberately and gallantly holding the door open for her to annoy her. Dresden is a little bit of a chauvinist (as he will readily admit). He also can never pass up an opportunity to annoy someone.

The banter continues with a more antagonistic bent with the introduction of Detective Carmichael. A more traditional cop who thinks Dresden is a con artist, albeit one that does deliver results.

Damn! Having your heart explode in your chest is a nasty way to go. I like the touch as Dresden is trying to keep it together and be professional while confronted with his first ever gruesome crime scenes.

The magic of the Dresdenverse, like most of the supernatural elements in the universe, is drawn from real world mythology. We have a mix of Egyptian, West African, and Germanic with probably others I’m completely missing. There are rules to magic and Butcher is good at explaining those rules and, more importantly, following them.

Like all good noir detective stories, our hero is between the rock and the hard place (something Dresden should just resign himself to). The Doom of Damocles is an awesome name for probation. Having a (metaphorical) sword hanging over your head must spur all kinds of motivation for good behavior.

Harry chauvinistically thinks a woman is responsible for the murders. This being a mystery, the first guess is invariable wrong (and if Dresden figured out what’s going on until the end, then where would the fun of the novel be?)

And lastly, Hendricks has his nickname. Not sure if Hendricks ever has an actual line, or if he just looms intimidating and making the occasional growl through the series.

Chapter 3

Marcone wants to retain Dresden’s services, to keep Dresden from investigating these murders. Marcone offers to pay Dresden’s rate ($50/hour plus expenses) for the next two weeks. Dresden dodges answering and thinks about diving out of the car while it’s driving. Marcone offers to double his fee (which comes out to $2400 dollars a day).

“It isn’t the money, John,” I told him. I lazily locked my eyes onto his. “I just don’t think it’s going to work out.”

To my surprise, he didn’t look away.

Those who deal in magic learn to see the world in a slightly different light than everyone else. You gain a perspective you had never considered before, a way of thinking that would just never have occurred to you without exposure to the things a wizard sees and hears.

When you look into someone’s eyes, you see them in that other light. And, for just a second they see you in the same way. Marcone and I looked at one another.

Whenever a Wizard and someone with a soul make eye contact for more than half a second, a soulgaze happens. Harry sees into Marcone’s soul. He is a warrior at heart. He gets what he wants in the most efficiently manner. He is dedicated to his people. While he makes his money off crime, he tries to minimize the suffering. Not out of caring, but because it made better business. He is furious over Tommy Tomm’s murder. His territory has been attacked and he will have revenge. In a dim corner lurked a secret shame. Marcone did something in his past he would give anything to undo, even spill blood. He drew strength and resolve from that dark place.

Harry realizes that Marcone wanted a peak into Harry’s soul and that is the reason Marcone got him alone. While Harry was gazing Marcone’s soul, Marcone gazed his. Unlike most people who get pale (or faint in the case of one person[Susan]), he just looked thoughtful. Dresden feels angered that Marcone duped him into the soulgaze.

Marcone, having taken Dresden’s measure, rescinds his offer. The car pulls up to Dresden’s building and Marcone offers him some advise. Dresden should stay out of this, it is on Marcone’s side of the fence and he will deal with it.

“Are you threatening me?” I asked him. I didn’t think he was, but I didn’t want him to know that . It would have helped if my voice hadn’t been shaking.”

“No,” he said, frankly. “I have too much respect for you to resort to something like that. They say that you’re the real think, Mister Dresden. A real magus.”

“They also say I’m nutty as a fruitcake.”

I choose which ‘they’ I listen to very carefully.” Marcone said. “Think about what I’ve said, Mister Dresden? I do not think our respective lines of work need overlap often. I would as soon not make an enemy of you over this matter.”

Dresden threatens Marcone, saying Marcone wouldn’t want him for an enemy. Marcone chastise him for rudeness and Dresden gives a smart alec response. Dresden exits the car and Hendricks gives him a dirty look, before driving off. Dresden is still shaking from the encounter. He is worried that Marcone, like a good predator, smell fear from Dresden and would think him weak.

But on the plus side, he wasn’t going to be late for that appointment.

My Thoughts

Marcone is an interesting character. It is never personal with him, always business. He is very different from the typical Italian mobster, full of passions and outburst. Butcher describes him like a football coach and Hendricks as his linebacker. It seems to me that a typical mob boss would just have his goons rough up Dresden with the threat of more violence to come if he didn’t back off. Marcone, instead, tries money.

He always appeals to greed over intimidation.

The soulgaze concept is really neat. The ability to learn about someone on such an intimate level, no wonder Dresden and people who no anything don’t look him in the eye. Which included Murphy in the last chapter. Marcone’s shame will come back at a latter point, so don’t forget, and it is a driving force that triggers the plot of a later novel.

Dresden response to fear is to make jokes, and it is on full display here. He tells Hendricks to wear his seat belt, quotes safety statistics, and when Hendricks growls at him, Dresden gives him the biggest, most annoying smile he can.

Click here to continue onto Part 2!

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Reread of Storm Front: Intro

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Intro

stormfrontLike many of my favorite books, I stumbled onto the Storm Front by accident. I was browsing the bookstore, looking for something new to read. There was a series I hadn’t noticed. A long series, already eight books, the newest in hardback. I pulled Storm Front off the shelf, reading the back, and something about the idea of a wizard private investigator in Chicago struck my fancy.

I bought it.

Excited by my new prospect, I was reading the book before my roommate, Sean, had even pulled his car out of the parking spot. It didn’t take me long to get hooked on this book. It was Dresden’s yellow pages ad that did it.

HARRY DRESDEN—WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advise. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other
Entertainment

It just struck my fancy to see this ad in the yellow pages that made me fall in love. I devoured the book and soon I had all eight that were out and began eagerly waiting for more from Jim Butcher. The series is still growing strong all these years later as we wait for Book 15 to come out. Butcher has managed to bottle real magic with the series.

Be warned. There are SPOILERS ahead. It’s a given that I’ll be spoiling this book and may touch on themes that happen later in the series, but I will keep those to a minimum. This is an amazing book series. While each novel is a standalone story (though that line did blur with the last few), there is an overarching mythology and plot points spawned from this very book. If a character survives and had a modicum of impact on the story, expect their return. Butcher gathers a rich tableau of allies, enemies, and frenemies for Harry Dresden while weaving myths from every culture into a seamless universe.

So lets dive into an amazing urban fantasy series!

If you haven’t gotten bored yet, click her for Part 1

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