Sunday, July 18, 2010

REVIEW: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Book 1 of The Dresden Files series
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: Orbit; UK edition (1 Sep 2005)
ISBN-10: 1841493988
ISBN-13: 978-1841493985
Reviewer: Cara
Copy: Bought online

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does – and not just because he’s the only one who does it. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they come to him for answers. Because the everyday world is not as ‘everyday’ as it seems. It’s actually full of strange and supernatural things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a – well, whatever it is the police are having trouble with this time.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s where things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Storm Front is the first in The Dresden files, a series based on Harry Dresden’s adventures as a wizard Private Investigator in modern day Chicago. The series is now at twelve books, with number thirteen due for release in 2011.

Take one Private Detective, add some self-deprecating humour, a measure of cynicism, a good amount of personal honour, and mix well with plenty of magical ability. The result is Harry Dresden, star of the show. Trading heavily on the tradition of hard-bitten American PI’s, Jim Butcher brings us a dark detective novel in the vein of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane et al. Only in this book, we have magic to add another dimension to the genre.

Harry Dresden is the only wizard PI in the Chicago area and, in a world where supernatural beings live alongside humans, albeit under the radar, he should be a busy man. But he is not and the resulting lack of finances adds to his problems. For he is under the watchful eye of the White Council, on a kind of probation supervised by the Warden, Morgan, who is watching and waiting for Harry to step out of line so he can kill him. Although a bit of a loner, Harry has a few allies… there is Karrin Murphy, director of Special Investigations at the Chicago Police Department, who calls him in to consult on a particularly gruesome double murder, the central plot in Storm Front. There is also Bob, a spirit of air who lives in a specially prepared skull in Harry’s basement who remembers things, like spells and is rather keen on sex - possibly because he can't get any, being a spirit! To complicate things further, Harry has an unfortunate effect on technology… nothing works when he is around, so no computers, high-tech gadgets, or even a reliable electrical supply. Harry is an old school detective, but one who has strong magical abilities.

I thoroughly enjoyed Storm Front. It has a distinct noir-ish feel, lifted by some very dark humour. Harry is the principle protagonist, everything is told from his point of view in the first person. This gives us good insight into Harry’s motivations and especially his personal code of honour. And while he is a prickly character, it is not hard to like Harry who has plenty of attitude and a tendency to wind people up! He is working alongside the Chicago PD to find out who killed a leading gangster’s henchman and his regular escort by magically exploding their hearts from the inside. His investigations lead him to make an enemy of Bianca, a vampire madam, and also of Johnny Marcone, Chicago’s crime boss. With the suspended death sentence hanging over him from the White Council, Harry has to tread very carefully indeed if he is to solve the murders, knowing that they were committed by a powerful mage tapping into the blackest magic.

It is fair to say that Harry survives this adventure, as there are 12 more books in The Dresden Files series, but how he does this… well I would recommend you read Storm Front to find out for yourself! If you like dark humour, a good whodunit and lots of magic you will not be disappointed. On the strength of Storm Front, I have order the next 2 books in the series and I look forward to reading more about Harry Dresden.

Rating 8/10

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