Death Masks by Jim Butcher
I am a very indecisive person when it comes to books. More specifically I never know what to read next. And because I was not sure about any of the “To Read” novels on my bookshelf, I decided to fall back onto a book series that has always delivered something fun. Those novels are the Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher. And this review is on the fifth book called Death Masks.
So what is it about? This series follow Harry Dresden. A wizard for hire who also occasionally helps out the police with murder cases involving the supernatural. And the books follows him as he solves the cases. A least most of the time. The fourth novel strayed away from that formula and did an epic fantasy but that’s a side note, because this book Death Masks returns to the mystery formula. In this one, the book juggles three main story lines at once. The first plot is that he is hired by a priest from the Vatican to find the shroud of Turin. It was stolen but as he dives into the case he finds this search for a shroud will involve demons, thieves, and mobsters who want it for their own. Like always, he gets more than he bargains for when he takes the case. Second, the vampire court is very mad at him for an event a coupe books ago and he is forced into a duel with a master vampire. The lastly, Harry’s girlfriend comes back to town. She has been struggling with being infected by a vampire but not yet turned. And the two get to reunite again.
So the good and bad? Let’s start with the good. The book gets moving fast. A shootout and car chase is within the first twenty pages. So it doesn’t waste time. The central story focusing the shroud is full of twists and turns and is a great ride. Also the return of Susan was nice. Seeing them happy together for a little while before they may have to go their separate ways forever was so bittersweet. They are such a great couple and it’s just nice to see them together. Also credit is due to Butcher for making Susan such a strong character with an intriguing arc over these books. At the beginning she was just the girlfriend journalist who didn’t know what she was getting into and over five books she may possibly had the same if not more character depth than Dresden himself. And can it just be said that the whole colorful cast of these books have developed into something great. From police officer Murphy to half vampire Susan, to the Holy knights to the mobster Johny Marcone. They all are so unique and have a crucial part to play in the climax with Harry on a train full of demons. It’s amazing that it all works so well without any of them feeling left out and unimportant. And as always there are plenty of twists and turns that keeps the tale so unpredictable and fun.
The bad? Let’s start with the scene that come off as creepy in all the wrong ways. There’s a point in the story where Harry and Susan are under lockdown and cannot leave the home for a while. But Harry is injured and bleeding, and Susan smells the blood she gets a bit nutty. As she’s vamping out, he has to tie her from the ceiling of the living room for his protection and her own. As he does so he touches her and sees how sexy she is. And Susan is not in her right mind. She’s vamping out one minute and crying the next. But she says she wants him to continue touching and he ends up having sex with her as she is not in a right state of mind while she is tied up. And it’s an uncomfortable scene that came off as a bit rapey. So the next day when Susan’s vampire episode has passed she thanks him for the sex but that does not make it okay. She was clearly delirious and he shouldn’t have done it. Its just morally wrong. And I don’t think this reflects Jim’s Butchers personal opinions on sex or date rape or anything of the sort. It feels like, in a sense, he was forced to write this. His competitors in this genre spice up their supernatural mystery thrillers often times with kinky sex scenes involving monsters. Jim doesn’t do that. His style is much more fun cheesy camp and it seems like he might have wrote this with a gun to his head from the publisher to match their style because it does not match the tone of his work at all. And he miserably failed here. Sometimes when you read an author enough, you can tell when they have their heart into their work or not, and from the strange tone of this specific chapter, it seems like it may have been the publisher’s idea more than his own. Because the scene was awful, I never seen Butcher do anything this before and I hope he never does it again. Beyond that, the duel with vampire that was built up for a good chunk of the story and did not really seem like that big of a deal when it came up. There an interesting action scene, but I guess after they built it up, I expected more. Also when is there a time when is Harry not broke? I means he’s always broke and struggling to pay rent. He’s a wizard. He been broke five books in row. Isn’t the police paying him? Also he has to have some customer base by now right? It would just be nice to see him not scrapping by for once.
Overall, this is another fun book in the series. It’s a fun mystery with twist and turns with a colorful fun cast of characters. The only bad thing about it, is the strange somewhat creepy sex scenes between Susan and Harry. But those uncomfortable five pages don’t ruin the 420 pages of good material. I recommend the book with the suggestion to skip ahead five pages or so at the beginning of the scene I have been talking about.
5 Smoothies out of Five
Overall Rating: Harry's Quest for the Shroud includes Fighting Demons, Vampire Duels, and Long Lost Girlfriends
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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.