Monday 19 March 2012

Dead Beat - Jim Butcher

I actually finished this back in January, but hadn't got round to writing a review - have a couple of other reviews that are waiting to be written like this one. I know I read this back in January because it's the book I read to get me out of my reading funk, and the note I wrote at the beginning of my A4 piece of paper says - sometimes you have to go back to go forward - it probably felt really deep at the time.

Dead Beat is the seventh (I think) in the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher. I stalled out on this series because I was reading the US published books and then a UK publisher picked them up and publishing order and everything went kablooey.

I hate when that happens.

Anyway, this one is all about necromancers. If my feeble memory (and badly written notes) of what I read in January is anything to go by. Mavra (the very nasty vampire) is blackmailing Harry into getting something called the Word of Kemmler for her. If he doesn't do it, she's going to drop his friend Karrin (the policewoman) in the shit. So Harry agrees. Unfortunately he's not the only one after the Word, and the six other necromancers, who are also after it, don't have such noble motives as saving their friends from a metaphoric pile of poo.

This was one series that I always intended to get back to reading. I'd been slightly worried that I wouldn't remember the story so far, but Jim Butcher manages to weave in the relevant bits of plot you need to know from previous books without it feeling exposition heavy.

There are so many things I love about this book, but what has to stand out most is the brilliant dialogue and how the characters spark off each other.

I love the fact that Harry and Thomas (his half-brother) are now living together. Their relationship isn't smooth sailing, little things irritate Harry (who has probably been living on his own for too long) but he has a deep concern for Thomas.
'You want to talk?'
'If I did , I'd be talking.'
I'm very interested to see how this develops over the coming books, especially as Thomas feels he is doomed. But the sibling relationship is not completely bleak, there are positive aspects to having your brother live with you.
'...How are you as a sounding board?'
'I can look interested and nod at appropriate moments,' he said.
I also think the scene where Butters mistakes them for lovers rather than siblings is quite amusing.

Special mention has to go to Mouse the dog and Butters the Medical Examiner. Mouse is just a phenomena, is he something more or is he just a dog. And Butters is a very human being who ends up in the middle of the conflict between Harry and the necromancers. He's not brave, he's something of a coward in fact, but ultimately he has to deal with the situation in which he finds himself.

One other thing I must mention - but not in too much detail as I don't want to spoil it - is how the relationship Harry has with his father is developed here. In a book which is very much concerned with necromancy and the raising of the dead, the scenes which take place between Harry and his father are very moving and beautifully written.

As regards continuing arcs, the figure of Lasciel the fallen angel is a prominent part of the book. I have to admit this is a part of the story that hasn't stuck too well in my memory. But I found her to be quite chilling and more than able to cut Harry down to size with a few well chosen words.
She regarded ne steadily and said, 'You aren't nearly as funny as you think you are.'
She doesn't appear often but when she does Jim Butcher manages to pull off (in her) a perfect combination of charm and menace.

This book is pretty much a non-stop action ride, with blistering dialogue and great characters. When you read a lot of urban fantasy it can lose its impact but this book reminds me why I love the genre so much. Recommended - but you need to read the preceding books in the series first.

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