Sunday 13 April 2014

#CBR6 Book 32: "Ghost Story" by Jim Butcher

Page count: 608 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Spoiler warning! This is book 13 in The Dresden Files, and as such, NOT the place to start reading the series. It's also completely impossible for me to review this book without some spoilers of the previous book and some of the things that happen in this one. If you haven't read the book yet, GO AWAY! Go read something else and come back when you've caught up. 

This is the first book in the series since book 4 that I actually read, and didn't listen to in audio book, because James Marsters doesn't narrate the audio. I love the audio books, but they take me a lot longer to get through. I read this book in about two days. It felt strange, but by now, I can sort of hear Marsters reading in my head, so all the characters sounded the right way.

Harry Dresden is dead, having been shot and fallen into the cold water of Lake Michigan at the end of the previous book. He ends up in some sort of strange afterlife, populated by a lot of old law enforcement types and is given the option to solve his own murder, or bad things will happen to one of the three people he holds dearest. Harry the ghost discovers that while he doesn't remember six months passing, that's how long he's been gone. The events in Mexico created a world wide power vacuum and a lot of very bad people have crawled out of the woodwork trying to establish themselves in the wake of Harry's demise. In Chicago, scary heavies called the Fomors are trying to get a foothold and it's affecting both the living and the dead inhabitants.

As Harry is a ghost, he seeks out Mortimer Lindquist, an ectomancer, who can both see and communicate with ghosts. Mortimer's house is under siege from aggressive spirits and only after Harry helps a former ancestor of Lindquist's to defend it, does Lindquist agree to aid him in contacting his friends. It turns out that Murphy, along with a number of Harry's old friends, such as the werewolves in Will Borden's pack and Waldo Butters, are now doing their best to keep all manner of supernatural nasties, who previously stayed away thanks to Harry's reputation, from invading the city. Only after Harry's old apprentice, Molly Carpenter, who now appears to be living on the streets as a mentally unstable magic vigilante, shows up and uses her wizard's sight to confirm Harry's identity, do the group begin to believe that he's actually there. Since Harry's body was never found, it's clear that both Molly and Murphy had hoped he wasn't really dead, and both women are visibly distressed by the ide of Harry as a ghost.

When Lindquist is abducted, Harry has to add rescuing the ectomancer to his current quest of solving his own murder. He's also very concerned about Molly, whose magical ability has increased spectacularly in the months since his death. It turns out that an old enemy of Harry's is behind Lindquist's kidnapping, and if Harry can't figure out a way to stop this individual, the consequences will be dire for all of Chicago.

It wasn't like this book was ever going to be able to compete with Changes in terms of action and plot development, but it's still pretty significant in terms of giving us a more comprehensive picture of Harry's inner life. Harry spends a LOT of this book thinking about his past, and especially about his actions in the last book. We find out more about his early years, training with Justin DeMorne and the events that led Harry to the point where he is now.

Unfortunately, I think the first third of the book was really rather dull, and dragged way too much. Harry faffing around in the "afterlife waiting room" and Lindquist's house got boring real fast, and it was only when we got to see what Murphy and the others had been up to that I started getting really interested in the story. I would also have been quite happy never seeing the villain of the piece again, I never really cared for the character and didn't think that part of the book was particularly interesting.

I loved seeing the development of the supporting cast of the books, though, even if Harry's death clearly hit all of them incredibly hard. They've clearly refused to be broken, however, and have organised a very impressive supernatural resistance force in his absence. Molly, especially, has come a long way and I'll be interested in seeing how she continues to develop in books to come. Harry does indeed solve his own murder in the end, and I found both the culprit and the motive very interesting. In the end, I don't think I'm spoiling all that much by saying that Harry will not be a ghost for the rest of the series. His new role and title is going to mean some massive adjustments to the wizard. I suspect "mystery of the week" story lines are a thing of the past.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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