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The Dreden Files deserve more exposure. Although I'm not a great fan of fantasy novels (although there's nothing wrong with them & I did go through a phase of enjoying them when I was in my teens) the adventures of Harry Dresden, resident of modern day Chicago and professional wizard transcend the genre and would appeal to anyone who likes their noir as black as possible and is willing to suspend their disbelief for a while.

Dead Beat is Harry's latest adventure, and like the preceding novels it skillfully combines a stand alone story with ongoing plot threads and the further development of Harry as a character. Set around the search for The Word of Kemmler, a book of enormous, dangerous power, it finds Harry once again standing (almost) alone against the forces of darkness and impossible odds in an effort to try and save a world that is mostly & wilfully ignorant of the threat to it.

As with the previous books the first quarter is a noirish detective story, with Harry trying to track down the Word of Kemmler whilst simultaneously tryng to work out what the hell (literally) is going on and to avoid dying at the hands of some very bad people. The narrative rocks along at a fair pace and is interspersed with some great moments of well written action. Harry is his usual, flawed, sarcastic self and acts as an excellent, world weary narrator. He is ably supported by a wide cast of colourful supporting characters, from his vampiric half-brother (you have to read the books to understand how that works) to his horse sized dog Mouse (ditto) to new arrivals such as the very human Butters.

In the final quarter events go from detective story to straight out action and the stage broadens out to include most of the City of Chicago. The denoument runs at such a quick pace and with such a sense of excitement that it becomes almost unputdownable, and the final storm drenched clash is action writing at its very best.

Through all this however, Jim Butcher doesn't forget to keep the many plot strands he has set up in previous books ticking along, and manages to establish a few more along the way. This is one of the great things about the Dresden novels; whilst the central story of each book is always by itself entertaining to one extent or another, the depth of world Butcher has created and the wider developments within it add even greater appeal for the reader.

In facy its very hard to find any real flaws at all with this novel. Maybe that's because, having read all the books published in the UK to date, I'm such a fan that I can't see them any more, but I also truly believe that there is very little to criticise here. Some might complain that the plot gets a little too convoluted at times, but its no more twisted than any other noirish-thriller. Others might dislike the way Butcher sidelines a major character from the previous books, but I think that having her take a break from the action is not a bad idea since it gives the book a fresh feel and she she will simply be more welcome when she returns next time.

Overall, for fans of Harry, Mouse, Thomas & all the other human and non-human characters who inhabit Butcher's world, Dead Beat is another nigh-on perfect installment. For those who have not discovered this series yet this is not the place to start (that's Storm Front, the first book) but by the time they do get here they'll be very pleased they did.
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on 17 May 2005
Jim Butcher goes from strength to strength with his latest addition to the Dresden Files. I bought this in hardcover and devoured it in two days.
The vampire Mavra threatens to destroy Murphy's career if Harry doesn't find the Word of Kemmler for her. The word is a book, giving necromancers god-like power over the dead, and six necromancers are in town looking for it. Mavra can't use it herself, but being dead means it can be used against her.
Once again Harry does battle with the forces of nature, magic, and evil--in the form of ghosts and zombies--to defeat the necromancers and to save Murphy's life and career. This time, the entire city is in danger of destruction, as more and more power is brought to bear on Harry in an effort to prevent him interfering. I especially liked Harry's pet dinosaur named Sue :)
If you love Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake, Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan, Mark Cooper's Christine Humber, you will love Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.
Dead Beat is book seven. The others in order are: Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks, Blood Rites, and Dead Beat.
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on 1 December 2006
Harry Dresden is the only wizard in the Chicago telephone directory. He does special jobs for the police dept and this keeps him busy.

The story begins with Harry being blackmailed by a powerful vampire who holds incriminating evidence that would destroy the career of a close friend. The vampire wants Harry to find The Word of Kemmler, but first Harry has to find out what that is. The answer very quickly becomes clear; The Word of Kemmler is something that a lot of people want. A lot of powerful, ruthless and determined people. Within a very short time Harry is up to his ears in scary bad guys and all hell is quite literally breaking loose all over Chicago.

This is loads of fun. Cross detective noir with a grown-up Harry Potter and you've got the idea. The story is driven along at a cracking pace, you're never too many pages away from a big action scene yet the central characters are well enough developed that you care and understand them.

Not read any of Jim Butcher's work before - not a problem. Everything you need to know is there. Just sit back and enjoy.
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on 2 May 2005
Tasked by an enemy to find and retrieve the Word of Kemmler, Dresden soon finds himself in a race not only against time but against the former apprentices of the late Necromancer that are also seeking it.
Jim Butcher has produced another excellent addition to the Dresden Files. The action is fast paced, the dialog is sharp, the world and the characters within in it are both detailed and believable. Jim Butcher continues to impress me with his Dresden Files Series.
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on 19 April 2015
Number 7 in the Dresden series -- at this point, anyone who's still reading these books should know the score.
Anyone jumping in at this point should stop and go back.
Having said that, the books still do the basic introductions for every recurring character and concept whenever the crop up, which is now getting a little tiring and I say that despite a two-year gap between reading Blood Rites and this.

This one starts with Harry -- same as ever Harry: sleep-deprived, gallant, chivalrous and ever on the verge of trouble -- living with his brother Thomas (see end of book 6) in his cramped apartment.

The main plot revolves around the arrival of a bunch of necromancers to Chicago, looking for a number of magical mcGuffins in order to become god-like and kick off world-ending-like problems.

A number of the usual supporting characters don't appear at all, or very little indeed -- notably Karrin Murphy (or any cop really) and Michael.
However Butters, the rarely-mentioned medical examiner, gets a much enlarged role here and he's great. A funny and talented, yet permanently terrified individual with a passion for polka.

Overall I think this is tied, with Summer Knight (#4), for my favourite so far in the series.

This is a very easy read; thrilling, well paced between the many action sequences and the "figure it out" sequences involving Bob and Butters. Harry's dog, whom I don't remember from earlier books, plays an ever-increasing "role" in the books which I like.
Plenty of pop-culture humour as usual, pretty sure this scored at least five out-loud laughs.

The sole over-arching storyline for the series is now Harry's "internal" battle with Lasciel, the fallen angel. This treads water a bit here, but does its job of maintaining that ever-present sense of doom for Harry's future.

4 stars. These books are fun thrill rides, though not terribly memorable or substantial; doesn't matter, I'll keep reading.
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on 28 November 2011
Harry Dresden's life is complicated enough on a normal weekday; imagine what he has to deal with on Halloween. Well, for a start, his sometime vampire nemesis Mavra is blackmailing him into finding a necromantic grimoire; the catch? Whoever gets the book will gain the power to become a dark god.

After a slightly lacklustre installment, Butcher is back firing on all cylinders, and it's a joy to read. The quest for the book allows Harry to do some good old-fashioned detecting, and pretty soon he realises that other interested parties are also after the same thing.

The adversaries in this case are pleasingly varied in their abilities, from the magical powerhouse Cowl to the body-hopping Corpsetaker and the zombie-commanding Grevane. Jim even manages to squeeze in an old enemy of Harry's, out for revenge.

As ever, the action setpieces are spectacular, including an early chase sequence at the morgue and a thrilling zombie siege where Harry should feel most safe. Butcher saves the best till last, though, with a climactic scene that has to be among the best I've read anywhere. I won't spol much, save to say it involves an army of the undead, several White Council wardens and Harry atop a most unconventionall steed...

The personal relationships between the characters aren't neglected by any means. Harry's newfound family member proves a staunch ally and equal annoyance, Billy and his friends make a guest appearance, and joy of joys, the hilarious Butters gets promoted to head sidekick for this book. Murphy's elsewhere during the story, but Harry has a chance at a connection with a comely and plucky bookstore assistant; I pretty much guarantee you won't see where THAT one is going.

The standard of quality of the Dresden Files tends to be so universally high that it's hard to choose between them, but Dead Beat stands as a crowning moment of awesome for the series thus far. Definitely a Halloween treat.
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There are seven laws of magic in the world of wizards -- and one of them is "Thou shalt not reach beyond the borders of life."

But of course, Harry Dresden encounters all sorts of evil magic in his job, and most of them break the magic laws anyway. And in Jim Butcher's seventh Dresden Files book, "Dead Beat," the overworked wizard-detective finds himself in the center of a massive magical conflict full of zombies, evil wizards and a vampire, all of whom want a magical book that would unleash a necromantic apocalypse. And how was your weekend?

A few days before Halloween, Harry is blackmailed into meeting with the Black Court vampire Mavra -- she wants the "Word of Kemmler" given to her, or she destroys Murphy's career and life. It turns out that Kemmler was a necromancer whom the Wardens killed long ago ("They killed him pretty good. A bunch of times"). He was also Bob's former master. When Harry consults assistant-coroner/one-man-polka-band Waldo Butters abou possible ritual killings, they're attacked by a zombies -- not the "brains!" type, but dangerous superhuman undead.

Turns out that there's a bunch of necromancers are running amok in Chicago, and thus far Harry's only clue is an old book called "Die Lied der Erlking." With some intel from the faeries and the local mob boss, Harry begins to piece together just why these necromancers (and Mavra) want to get their hands on the Word. With only one more to go before Halloween -- the Darkhallow -- and enemies of every kind, Harry must locate the Word and somehow keep it out of evil hands. Otherwise, y'know, the world might end.

Body-surfing wizards, decaying vampires, Fallen angels, Wardens and ancient Hunts filled with wild Faerie magic -- "Dead Beat" definitely has plenty of problems for Harry Dresden to deal with, and he spends most of it treading a thin line between all the various magical groups and forces at work. There are a dozen different plot threads interwoven here -- from the vampire/wizard war to Harry's Fallen troubles -- and Butcher keeps them moving like a pro jongleur.

Butcher fills it with plenty of fiery, whip-fast action and some spectacularly gross action scenes (one involving Thomas with a sawed-off shotgun -- hardcore splattergore!), as well as confrontations with some of the darker forces at work in Chicago (some of whom are truly spine-chilling). And the plot is also haunted by the repercussions of Harry's past actions -- old enemies, old injuries -- and a no-win scenario where no matter what, people will be hurt.

All this sounds very grim and violent, so fortunately Butcher leavens all this with a hearty dose of humor, both from the snappy dialogue (" "You intend to murder me in cruor gelidus?" "No, I'll do it right here") and narrator (Thomas pretends to be Harry's gay partner). And the climactic buildup to the Halloween battle is the ultimate example of Butcher Humor: Harry riding a zombie T-rex through the streets of Chicago. I dare you to find any other urban fantasy with so brilliant an idea.

Harry has even more problems to deal with than usual, and he handles them as gracefully as he can (especially considering he only had one working hand). But there are some new developments with far-reaching consequences for him -- particularly, a rather chilling death curse and a new position of authority that you NEVER would have thought our lovably lone-wolfy wizard would ever attain.

And while Murphy is pretty much absent here, her position is filled by the manly and sexy incubus Thomas Raith, who is struggling to deal with a "normal" life -- all his minimum-wage jobs are disrupted by his oozing supernatural sex appeal. And minor character Waldo Butters serves as the "ordinary" guy who suddenly finds himself up to his ears in zombies, wizards and other weird things. All he wanted was the Quasimodo Polka!

"Dead Beat's" tale of undead horrors and fey terrors is kept from being really grim, mainly because Butcher saturates it with loads of tongue-in-cheek humor. Definitely a must-read for fantasy fans.
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on 10 December 2011
Dead Beat by Jim Butcher is another fantastic edition to the Dresden series.
In this installment we see Dresden racing across Chicago to save Murphy's life and career from being destroyed by evil Mavra whilst he battles crazed necromancers and bigoted white council wardens.
I loved how both Butters and Thomas came into their own much more in this book than they had previously. Butters goes from being the rational yet terrified little Polka obsessed medical examiner to a hero (ish). Thomas' relationship with his brother is also developed far more and makes for interesting reading.
But let's be honest - we're all reading it for the ghosts, zombies, magic, fist fights and Dresden himself. And this edition doesn't skimp on any of it! The main action scenes toward the end are simply astonishing. This is one of Butcher's strongest tore de force's yet! Really is well worth a couple of days to race through.
And who doesn't love Sue?!
Wonderfully enjoyable urban fantasy - well worth a read!
(This could be read as a stand alone novel but I would suggest reading the other 6 novels first to really understand the Dresden universe) :)
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on 2 June 2005
Frequently a series deteriorates over time and although you enjoy a book, it is not the same quality as earlier ones. Well this is certainly not true in this case and Harry Dresden goes from strenght to strenght.
I enjoyed this book more than some earlier ones and particularly liked Harry's character development. It is also nice to say that although it is part of a series, you certainly don't have to have read the other books.
My only moan is that we will have to wait for book 8
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on 30 October 2009
This book forms part of an 11 book (thus far) on-going series, read in order for the best results, wherein the main characters are well rounded, the plots, while slightly predictable, are none the less well crafted and and will surprise the reader with what is often an unexpected route to the stories end. Beware starting to read any of them, if you have anything important to do, or a task you are required to complete. It is unlikely you will manage to put the blasted book down.

Not "high" literature, but super mental chewing gum, I await the other 22 volumes.

I will be repeating this review for all of the other 11 books that I have, they are well worth it.
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