A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{October 15, 2012}   Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Plot: Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only profession wizard, is surprised to have a new client straight from the Vatican. Though Father Vincent doubts Harry’s claims at wizardry, he has reason to trust his skills as an investigator. The shroud of Turin has been stolen and the father wants Harry to track it down. But this investigation will pit him against mobsters, lady thieves, fallen angels and even his friends. As if that weren’t enough, the vampires of the red court still want him dead and his girlfriend is back in town.

Death Masks is the fifth book in the Dresden Files series and if you know what Harry’s powers do to electronics, you’ll be shocked to learn that it starts on a TV talk show. Though the beginning of the novel is mostly funny, Butcher quietly picks up the pace: as soon as Harry leaves the studio, he is given a new high stakes case and is targeted by a mob shooter. As in Summer Knight, Harry finds himself in the the center of several deadly situations. He is challenged to a duel to the death, attacked by demons and tricked by female thieves (mark my words, if Harry is ever killed it will be by a woman). But, in my opinion, the heroes of this novel are the knights of the cross.

We already met one of the 3 knights, Micheal (and his wonderful wife), in Grave Peril. Death Masks introduces us to his mentor, Shiro (who unfortunately suffers a bit from “wise old Asian” syndrome) and to Sanya. They too are after the shroud and they don’t want Harry on the case. The knights are all great warriors, of course, but it is their relationship to faith that is interesting to me. They are supposedly soldiers of God but though Michael is devout, Sanya is a professed agnostic and Shiro was baptized by accident. This emphasis on goodness of purpose and action over the structures of religion seems to be the theme of this most religious of the Dresden novels. Michael, like Murphy, is one of my favorite characters and I hope to see more of him and his family in the coming novels.

Meanwhile, Harry’s romance with Susan is getting more complicated. She is back in Chicago after a long stay in South America to quit her job and talk to Harry. He knows as well as we do that nothing good can come of such a talk. But I have a feeling that her new employer, and the demons that Harry faces in this book, will become very important in the near future.

I’m enjoying this series more with every volume but one thing bothered me about the ending of book five: a character sacrifices his life to save another but at the end Butcher does something that I feel steals some of the nobility from that death. Sure, it makes Harry feel better, but it isn’t as though misery and guilt are new to our favorite wizard/P.I.

I continue to “read” the audiobook version of this series (currently as I unpack and sort the books in my library). Death Masks is once more ably narrated by James Marsters. Buzzy Multimedia has added a bit of music to the beginning and end of the book. But as there is none within the narrative itself (despite a perfect excuse for playing The Ride of the Valkyries), I don’t think it actually adds anything.

The next volume is Blood Rights. I will start it as soon as I finish writing this review.

2012 (#96)


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