Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost Story (Dresden Files, No. 13)
I have been waiting a long time to find out what happened to Harry Dresden after the stunning finale to Changes. I picked it up for my Nook the day it came out, and managed to hold off a couple of days before reading it, but it kept me awake a couple of nights on a recent vacation, and was all I'd hoped it would be - maybe more. At the end of the last book, Dresden has been shot and killed, his body falling into the chill waters of Lake Michigan.

As Ghost Story opens, Dresden is literally in Limbo, his final destination hasn't yet been determined. He meets with some entities - maybe angelic, maybe just supernatural bureaucrats - one of whom is the ghost of Karen Murphy's Dad, and offered the opportunity to investigate his own murder, as a ghost. On the flip side, if he doesn't find his killer, several people whom Harry loves will die, so it's not much of a choice. Hey, it's called Ghost Story, right? Most of the people he knows aren't able to interact with ghosts without a little help, so his first stop is at the home of Mortimer Lundquist, ectomancer, whom he hopes to recruit or shame into helping him. Morty's house is guarded by the shade of a revolutionary war soldier, Captain Sir Stuart Winchester, and Harry has a hard time convincing Stuart of his bona fides so he can talk to Morty in the first place.

After Morty is finally convinced that it's truly Harry's ghost, and not some inimical impostor, they must meet with Karen Murphy, formerly of the Chicago PD's supernatural crimes investigation unit (she was thrown out for her role in Harry's takedown of the Red Court vampires), and with Molly, Harry's former apprentice. Karen and Molly are both pretty torn up about Harry's death, for what appear to be obvious and similar reasons. They take some convincing, as well, but eventually get on board with the investigation.

Along the way, Harry does a lot of guilt-tripping about his role in Susan's death, and the ramifications of his having done whatever it took to rescue his daughter from the Red Court, which has caused a power imbalance in Chicago, with all the nasty players competing for unprotected territory. One of the somewhat small-time bad guys is a wizard who controls a small gang of teenagers (like Fagan's boys) whom he sends to attack Karen's house, spraying the neighborhood with automatic weapons fire. Not totally unexpectedly, Harry develops a soft spot for one of the kids, who is actually able to hear Harry's disembodied voice, and decides he must rescue the group from their "master."

There's also an extremely powerful necromancer-type who is gathering multitudes of ghosts and sending them to attack Morty, for some odd reason. After several failed attempts, where Harry and Stuart join forces, the evil minions finally succeed in breaking through the defenses, and abduct the ectomancer. So, to further delay solving his murder, Harry has to undertake a rescue mission as well.

Molly seems to have gone a touch crazy after Harry's death, adopting the persona of the Rag Lady, a shadowy figure known for killing minor villains, and leaving them with a strip of cloth (from the shredded clothing Harry wore in the battle against the Red Court) in their mouths. Karen, as a former LEO, has a big problem with this, but she isn't certain that Molly is to blame. Harry believes that he failed to prepare Molly adequately for the event of his demise, and tracks her down for some lengthy conversations.

Ghost Story moves right along, with plenty of action, and a ton of surprises. When I came to the point of the big reveal - Who Killed Harry? - I was absolutely floored. I'd suspected pieces of the puzzle, but had no idea what really happened that day. Great stuff, and it looks like we'll see more Dresden Files stories in the future.

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