Resurrection Men

“Be Careful What You Wish For, Strawman.”

 

 This 13th novel in Ian Rankin’s John Rebus series won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2004. And every single page of the work speaks for why. This entry has so impressed me, scared me and influenced me that this is my third post on the work relating to my blog theme of “What I Think About What I’ve Read.”

 

As I stated in an earlier post, the DI Rebus series is a character driven Scottish police procedural focusing on homicide. John Rebus is the main protagonist spanning each novel in the series and his character is deeply flawed: a functioning alcoholic, an aging “dinosaur,” a basically non-promotable maverick and thought to be bent.

From the standpoint of the current times, he is all those things – except bent. He’s a dinosaur because he has an extensive street network and places his emphasis on investigative paths rather than on administrative statistics. He’s non-promotable because he investigates where – and to whom – the evidence leads rather than where – or away from whom – the administrators want it to lead. And he does have a relationship with Morris Gerald Cafferty, the biggest mobster in Edinburgh. And while that relationship often helps him with cases, it is quite an adversarial relationship and he does not consider himself to be in Cafferty’s back pocket.

Finally, the ripple effect from all of Rebus’s choices, both personally and professionally, in the previous novels accumulates into the tidal wave of consequences that is the premise of this novel. Rebus is now on desk duty. Therefore, his current disciplinary status, his street knowledge as a maverick investigator and his reputation as the resident “bad boy” puts him right in the crosshairs for becoming the lead investigator in an undercover Internal Affairs operation. Rebus’s Chief Constable wants him to attend Resurrection School at the Police Academy to ferret out evidence to prove that a trio of cops, also assigned to the school, were complicit in foiling what is now a 7-year-old cold case – and who are rumored to have been continuing their bad acts in the years since.

As part of their training to work as team members rather than as mavericks, the Resurrection group is assigned a cold case to work. They have all heard this is part of the remedial course and expect it. What John doesn’t expect is that the cold case is one in which both he and one of the other Resurrection cops were involved several years prior, rather than the standard test case that the academy always uses. Blind-sided by the situation, John is no longer sure, and with good reason, whether he is really an investigator or whether the Chief Constable has set him up to be trapped right along with the others.

Overall, this plot is a win-win situation for the Chief Constable. If Rebus unearths proof of the three officers’ culpability in the 7-year-old drug theft case, they are dismissed from the force and the CC wins. If Rebus’s culpability in the 6-year-old cold case being studied by the group is proved, a thorn-in-everyone’s-side Rebus is finally dismissed and the CC wins. If Rebus is not implicated and he fails to get proof on the trio, he simply finishes the remedial Resurrection course, returns to work a supposedly rehabilitated officer and the CC wins. The problem is what happens if the group Rebus is investigating finds out he is a mole. If they are guilty of what Rebus truly suspects, then Rebus could die. Oh well, the Chief Constable still wins.

Back in 2002, when this book was published, Rebus’s survival was definitely an issue – it was the current book in the series and you never know, at the time, whether a particular entry will be the last. So, as I reached the heart-pounding, tension-filled end – and I do mean the last 20 pages of the book – my only consolation was in knowing that Rankin has written 8 more Rebus novels between 2002 and 2017. Rebus would live, but at what cost?

That cost is what caught me by surprise, but it really shouldn’t have. Any experienced hard-core mystery reader will know that if an author bases his entire plot on his main character being sent in to get the goods on a trio of suspected corrupt cops then they will indeed be corrupt cops. And any experienced hard-core mystery reader knows that the author will have the corrupt cops discover the mole. Thus, Rebus, his act exposed, determines that the trio will not let him live. He’s not okay with that, but is essentially resigned to his fate until …the trio tell Rebus that they plan to torture and kill his partner and protégé, DS Siobhan Clark, as well.

At that point, thinking he has to choose between saving Siobhan’s life and saving his own, Rebus deliberately chooses to become what everyone has always suspected him of being.

Quoting Rankin, who can express what I feel about this point of ethics much better than I can:

Rebus thought back six years…At the end of his tether, he’d…paid a visit to Barlinnie, not to ask Cafferty a favor but merely to tell him the story, hoping Cafferty’s contacts would succeed where he had failed. But that hadn’t happened. Instead, his men had attacked [the suspect], beating him mercilessly and leaving him to die. Which hadn’t been Rebus’s plan at all. Not that Cafferty had believed him. When Rebus had returned to Barlinnie to rage at him, Cafferty had laughed….

We should be careful what we wish for, Strawman…The words ringing in Rebus’s ears all down the years.

“I need a favor,” Rebus continued. He took out his notebook and wrote down an address, tearing out the page and sliding it across the table. “If some of the merchandise found its way here, you might find the heat dissipating a bit….”

“Always nice to do business with you, Strawman…”

Rebus stood up, fearing at first that his legs might not support him. His whole body felt like it was turning to dust…the dull sensation of ashes in his mouth.

I’ve made a pact with the devil, he thought…Resurrection would come only to those who deserved it; Rebus knew he was not among them. He could find a church and pray all he liked, or offer up his confession to [the CC]. Neither would make a jot of difference. This was how the jobs got done; with a tainted conscience, guilty deals, and complicity. With grubby motives and a spirit grown corrupt. His steps were so shallow as he walked towards the door, he could have been wearing shackles.

…Cafferty had ceased to see him, his annihilation complete.

But as proved by the additional volumes in Rankins play list, Rebus does not die, although it is incredibly nip and tuck for a bit and Rebus suffers a grave injury.

Quoting Rankin again:

[In the end] it [asking Caffery for a favor] was a complete and utter waste. Rebus could feel his stitches tingling, reminding him that he was still alive. All because [one of the trio] had changed his mind. He rose to his feet again, brushing the earth from his trousers and hands.

Sometimes that was all it took to effect a kind of resurrection.

Bottom line about what I got from reading this novel:

As many before have quoted: Be Careful What You Wish For!

Because the genie in the bottle may interpret your wishes far differently than you have expressed them. And you will have to live with the consequences of the genie’s actions as well as your own for the rest of your life.

 

 Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads.

 

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Resurrection Men

Resurrection Men_IanRankin_904488

Office Politics – or Bullying?

The DI Rebus series is a character driven Scottish police procedural focusing on homicide. John Rebus is the main protagonist spanning each novel in the series and his character is deeply flawed, a functioning alcoholic on the edge of losing his functionality. He is also in his fifties and is looked down upon by many of his colleagues, particularly the younger ones, for being what they consider a “dinosaur,” a politically incorrect relic, non-promotable and possibly bent.

From the standpoint of the current times, he is all those things – except bent. He’s a dinosaur because he has an extensive street network and places his emphasis on investigative paths rather than on administrative statistics. He’s non-promotable because he investigates where – and to whom – the evidence leads rather than where – or away from whom – the administrators want it to lead. And he does have a relationship, albeit adversarial, with Morris Gerald Cafferty, the biggest mobster in Edinburgh. And while that relationship often helps him with cases, he is not in Cafferty’s back pocket and Cafferty doesn’t necessarily want him there.

Finally, the ripple effect from all of Rebus’s choices, both personally and professionally, in the previous novels accumulates into the tidal wave of consequences that is the premise of this novel. Rebus is now on desk duty due to his insubordination at the end of the last novel, even if the bad guy would not have been caught had he not disregarded his Superintendent’s orders. Thus, his disciplinary status, his street knowledge as a maverick investigator and his reputation as the resident “bad boy” puts him right in the crosshairs for becoming the lead investigator in an undercover operation. Rebus’ Chief Constable wants him to ferret out evidence to prove that a trio of cops were complicit in foiling what is now a 7-year-old cold case – and who are rumored to have been continuing their bad acts in the years since.

While these three officers are all from different areas of the country, they all seem to have found themselves on the wrong side of their supervisors one time too many. As a result, they have been assigned, along with two other individuals, to a month-long remedial instruction course at Scotland’s main police academy. There, if they cooperate with the program, their careers will be resurrected and they should hopefully make their last few years to retirement (Letting them retire on full-pension is a lot easier than trying to fire them.)

So, Rebus throws a ceramic mug of tea at his Chief Superintendent when she disrespects him in front of his entire unit and, as planned by the Chief Constable, is summarily assigned to the policy academy Resurrection course.

As part of their training to work as team members rather than as mavericks, the group is assigned a cold case to work. They have all heard this is part of the remedial course and expect it. What John doesn’t expect is that the cold case is one in which both he and one of the other Resurrection cops were involved several years prior, rather than the standard test case that the academy always uses. Blind-sided by the situation, John is no longer sure, and with good reason, whether he is really an investigator or whether the Chief Constable has set him up to be trapped right along with the others.

From the first day of Resurrection, it becomes abundantly and quickly clear that there is one other alpha male in the class – DI Francis Gray.

“Gray was a big man, and the years told on his face. And because he said everything with a smile, a wink or a glint in his eye, he got away with it. Rebus hadn’t heard anyone making a joke about Gray himself though they’d all been his target. It was as if he were challenging them, testing them. The way they took his comments would tell him everything he needed to know about them. Rebus wondered how the big man would react to a jibe or joke directed against him. Maybe he’d have to find out.”

Gray revels in any ridicule and sarcasm that he can spew at his colleagues. He virtually double-dog-dares any co-worker to one-up him in speech or in action. He is, quite frankly, a nasty bully. The question is whether he is also a corrupt cop.

But Francis Gray is not the only office bully in the story. DCS Gill Templar, Rebus’ boss, is absolutely full of her position as one of the few women at that particular rank. She sarcastically ridicules any person of lower rank who happens to have an idea that she has not yet had herself. She even ridicules anyone who voices an idea she has already had but has not yet voiced. Over the last several books she has deliberately sabotaged the careers of several underlings just to prove her power.

As a result, the officers under her command, or who are in other commands but below her in rank, imitate her and often bully the members of her team who are lower in rank than themselves. Thus, every decision, every interview, every action has to be thought out in advance as to whether they will owe a favor, need a favor or get a bollocking as a result of their choices. Needless to say, the work environment is not particularly healthy for anyone, especially Rebus and his partner, DS Siobhan Clark, who are independent thinkers and self-starters.

Ian Rankin’s portrayal of these two characters as psychological bullies brought back a lot of memories, mostly bad ones, from the years before I retired. I was never a person like Gill Templar who wanted to play “office politics” just to get successive promotions. I found I was happier and had so much more of a satisfying professional life by being an “outsider,” a small fish in a big pond hiding in the weeds. And I was much happier personally since I didn’t have to “play nice” at myriad social outings. But, just like in the case of Rebus, the bosses always tried to push me anyway.

However, the likes of DI Francis Gray were not so easy to hide from then, any more than they are now. And I had the unpleasant task of having to deal long-term with several like him over the course of 20 years, both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, this kind of bully not only has the power to hurt you professionally, they absolutely delight in hurting a person emotionally. And that often breeds the fear that they will eventually hurt a person physically. 

What I think about what I read: Ian Rankin pushed a lot of touchy buttons for me in this novel and they were not happy ones.    

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads

Resurrection Men, or rather, Renaissance Man

The novel I was reading at bedtime on Saturday, Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin, turned out to NOT be the reading material for Sunday. Sunday became a day for reading Apple support pieces and question/answer blogs on iPhones, specifically how to unfreeze an iPhone 6s after the new iOS 11.0.2 update downloaded incompletely.

Unresponsive keys. Apps that opened to a blue or white “screen of death.” The very expensive “thing” wouldn’t even power off. 

So, off to the Verizon store we went, with high hopes that their tech could unfreeze the little darling. Didn’t take too long for those hopes to get dashed.

The scene at the phone shop went something like this:

Me: The phone froze after the new operating system update was installed.

Him: The new operating system was not designed for that phone.

Me: Apple’s website says it is.

Him: Of course, it does, but a new operating system is really only for the latest generation of devices.

Me: (internal thought here) Ah-ha! That means he wants us to buy a new phone rather than fix the older one!

Him: You could just wait a few days, keep it on wi-fi, and let the phone catch up to the update. Sometimes that works.

Me: Huh?

Him: Or you could hook it up to your main computer, bring up iTunes and do a Backup and Restore.

Me: Thank you. We’ll try that.

Me: (internal thought here) And if the keys don’t work right, just how am I going to do that since you have to press keys on the phone to get the two devices to communicate.

So I spent several hours reading support docs, trying what they suggested, reading more support docs and trying those things, too. Finally, I had to bite the bullet and “reformat the disc.” 

Now, why am I doing this when it’s my husband’s phone? Because I have scads of patience and he doesn’t. And, we all know that “Pound to fit, paint to match” just does not work with tech!

So my husband did what all good modern Renaissance Men do – he let me be a Resurrection Man and bring the ornery little thing back from the dead.

Cover Art from Goodreads

Rules of Prey

Rules Of Prey_JohnSandford_9134890

THAT’S SIX!

5 STARS

Three characters control the outcome of this story. One is a cop, one is a lawyer and one is a television reporter. Each one is ruthless, manipulative, vicious, highly intelligent, a player and a killer of either body or soul.

Lucas Davenport is the cop. He is also a highly successful creator of fantasy/combat computer games. His ability to strategize on the fly, to think multiple steps ahead of the current action and to utilize violence with little remorse makes it difficult for him to play nicely in the sandbox with others not of like mind. Even though his ability to lead a squad of officers is virtually non-existent, he is still one of the most successful vice and homicide detectives in Minneapolis PD’s history.

Now a lieutenant, he is a division of one, a specialist in gathering intel from a vast street network, forwarding the tips and whisperings on to the appropriate squads for follow-up. Keeping his own hours and reporting only to the Chief of Police, he often works a parallel path with the official investigation teams. As a result, to date and still in his early thirties, he has killed five men in the line of duty.

Lucas Davenport is a predator, whether the hunted is a suspected criminal or the next intelligent and attractive woman on his dance card. He despises the first and he respects the other. But the quest for either is still a hunt that has well-established rules of prey.

The lawyer is maddog, one word and spelled in lower-case, but his real name is Louis Vullion. He appears to be that sub-genre of psychopath who is broken from birth. And with parents who were as remote and isolated as the Texas ranch on which he was raised, there appears to have been no chance for repair. He has always known he was “wrong,” and he has willingly chosen to play that hand rather than seek psychological help.

Like Lucas, maddog is adept at gamesmanship. Like Lucas, his strategies are focused on the guilty and the women, even if, to maddog, they are one and the same. Like Lucas, his kill count is at five. And like Lucas, as he demonstrates with each raped and knifed body, he has very distinctive and formulated rules of prey.

Jennifer Carey is the TV reporter, and she has been one of Lucas Davenport’s bed partners for about three years now. At her core, Jennifer is a sociopath. She is one of those media people that adds to the callous reputation of the breed. She uses every tool at her disposal – lies, threats, bribes, blackmail, tears, her gender, even her biological clock – to get what she wants personally or professionally.

And she does so without a single care for the consequences or collateral damage to the people she targets in her stories or in her life. She is every bit as adept at gamesmanship as Lucas and maddog. However, with little sense of ethics, she has few rules to limit her actions, and definitely no defining rules of prey.

In this first entry of the Prey series, which is still in production after nearly 25 years, John Sandford creates, in Lucas Davenport, a character that is atypical within the normal detective genre of its time. As far as timelines go, Davenport is a contemporary of Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. However, he is a cop rather than a PI, and he works out of the Twin Cities rather than LA. He isn’t witty like Cole or Spenser, and he does not have a lethal sidekick.

Davenport writes computer code and bad poetry and he doesn’t flaunt his wealth. He pays as much attention to his mental health as to his physical one. He accepts full responsibility for his actions and their consequences, personally and professionally. Yet, in the end he is a stone cold killer with a badge, a vigilante when justice cannot or will not prevail.

The action in the story – mental, physical and emotional – is well crafted, realistic and logical. Because we know the identity of the killer from the first page, there are no mysteries for the reader to solve, no red herrings to wade through. There are, however, more than enough bumps, grinds and mistakes on everyone’s part to make the story one that builds tension steadily to the point where sleep becomes highly over-rated.

The attacks and murders are vicious and graphically described. Also graphically detailed are maddog’s internal monologues between killings. The man is not an egotistical maniac with delusions of grandeur or superiority. He is an intelligent but broken little man with a psychological compulsion to kill that has besieged him since he was a toddler. Quite frankly, Sandford’s portrayal of maddog makes you feel sorry for the man. Not sorry enough to want him to survive, but sorry for him, nevertheless.

As you reach the final pages of the book, Sandford closes down the story arc without a cliffhanger ending or a police-related hook for the next novel. He does leave a personal hook involving Lucas, however.

Unfortunately, what Sandford does not do is dispatch Jennifer Carey – literally or figuratively. One can only hope that that particular circumstance will come soon. Believe me, she is one character that possesses a kind of evil that every female reader recognizes and has well and good reason to fear.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Somebody Killed His Editor

Somebody Killed His Editor_JoshLanyon_6553364

BUG AND WINDSHIELD

4 STARS

Christopher Holmes is an award winning, NYT best selling author multiple times over. At least he was. Now, his long-running cozy mystery series is not so popular, and Holmes’ editor has chosen not to renew his contract.

Trying to revitalize his career, Holmes’s agent has pushed him into revamping his image from that of a stodgy recluse into that of a trendy urbanite. The agent has also pressured Holmes into attending a writer’s conference at a secluded lodge upstate. There, she has arranged for a meeting with the editor to reopen contract negotiations for a new series with a more popular bent.

The only problem with this approach is that Holmes does not care to be a trendy urbanite and he doesn’t want to deal with beginner-level seminars. And he most certainly doesn’t want to write a new series that revolves around nosy cupcake bakers, smart-alecky female PI’s, bounty hunters or demons. However, Holmes doesn’t want his writing career to be over at the age of 40 nor does he want to be penniless, so he agrees to both suggestions.

He should have stayed home!

First, Holmes blows a tire during a driving rainstorm only a few miles from the lodge. Then, the wooden bridge he is crossing by foot collapses beneath him. Soon after, he discovers the barefoot body of a pajama-clad female next to the road. And when he reaches the lodge and reports his grisly find, the victim turns out to be a mystery writer who only recently savaged Holmes in a highly publicized critique.

With the bridge out and the high winds and rain, the police cannot get to the lodge. That means all the conference attendees are stuck on the premises with the body – and probably the murderer. But the body and its murderer are now the least of Holmes’ immediate worries because he is also stuck at the lodge with J. X. Moriarity. Moriarity is an ex-cop turned highly successful thriller writer. He is also a man with whom Holmes had a 3-night affair a decade ago. And that affair ended very badly.

And to add the proverbial insult to injury, Holmes’ editor turns their meeting into a public humiliation in front of all the conference attendees, including Moriarity. Holmes then mouths off a sarcastic remark about poison and drinks when the editor mockingly toasts the demise of Holmes’ career.

Sure enough, the next morning, Holmes finds his editor dead. When Holmes’ ear stud is found under the man’s cheek, the conference attendees demand that he be locked away until the police can arrive. And Moriarity does the honors.

Moriarity is probably the only person at the lodge, other than Holmes’ agent, who believes that Holmes is being framed. But Moriarity has an agenda of his own regarding Holmes. Even though it has been a decade, he has never completely resolved the aborted affair in either his own mind or in his heart. So for a majority of the book, we are wading through 10 years of misunderstandings and the resulting personal and professional acrimony between the two men. As a result, Josh Lanyon provides us with a read that is far more emotional than it is sexual.

Even though the story is told from Holmes’ POV, Lanyon portrays Moriarity as the most injured party in the failed affair all those years ago. And maybe he was, but the tack Lanyon takes with Moriarity made me grind my teeth, over and over, scene after scene. Moriarity doesn’t ask for any explanation as to why things ended the way they did. What he does is use sex as a psychological weapon and then blindsides Holmes with vicious, cruel and demeaning verbal assaults.

I have no use in real life, or in novels, for people who “shoot first and ask questions later.” It was not long into these set-ups where Moriarity claims to be helping Holmes and then proceeds to crush him to rubble that the only words I wanted Josh Lanyon to put in Holmes’ mouth were “Get the H—l away from me and don’t come back.”

However, Lanyon had other plans for Moriarity before the murderer’s identity could be revealed. A little pain, a lot of fear, and a healthy dose of comeuppance did much to level the emotional playing field between the two men. In the end, I still was not a fan of Moriarity, but there are two more books currently in the series. Perhaps, he will redeem himself.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Strangers In Death

Strangers In Death_JDRobb_2494207

SKIN GAME

5 STARS

Thomas Anders is dead in his bed. The wrists and ankles of his naked body are tied to the bedposts with velvet rope. His neck is wrapped in a fifth velvet rope that is lashed to the other four. The cord itself didn’t kill him; the angle of the tie-off choked him to death over a protracted period of time. At first glance, it appears a kinky night has gone awry.

But, as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. For Eve Dallas, three things are wrong with this scenario. First, there are too many toys scattered about the room, some new, most unused. Secondly, there are too many things missing from the scene, such as the man’s clothes, the home’s security discs for the last 24 hours, any evidence that the man ever tried to struggle against the choking, and any evidence that another party was actually involved with him sexually. Of course, somebody else had to be there, though. Anders could not have possibly tied his second wrist or his neck by himself.

The third wrong thing is the victim’s wife. Ava Anders is a thousand miles away on vacation with some female friends when she learns of her husband’s demise from their housekeeper. Several hours later, when she strides across the threshold, she is stylishly dressed, perfectly coiffed, immaculately made up, no sign of tears now or ever, and screaming at Dallas about the circus that is now her home and yard.

As soon as the word “homicide” is mentioned along with the idea of sexual infidelity, the widow shifts gears. You practically see her put the back of her hand to her forehead, roll her eyes upward and go into an “Oh, woe is me” routine.

What Eve doesn’t see is any genuine grief. There are a lot of sniffs, remonstrations and demands to see the body, but not any real grief. What Eve doesn’t hear are any questions about the details of the death. And what she does hear is a lot of “I.”

Based on the title of the book, the opening scenes with the body and the unassailability of the wife’s alibi, I felt that J. D. Robb was writing a futuristic adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “Strangers on a Train.” (No, Hitchcock directed the movie, Highsmith wrote the book.) From this point on, if I was right, it was a matter of identifying the other murder, be it one from the past or one yet to come. Once identified, that murder would lead directly to the identity of Anders’ murderer.

But the whole point of “Strangers on a Train” is that the murderers would have no connection to each other beyond one chance meeting. No connection, no identifiable motive, thus no arrest. But when one of the conspirators chickens out, the other re-establishes contact and the “perfect crime” starts to fall apart.

So, for 300 pages, Robb has us on the hunt for the person with whom Ava Anders made the pact and with whom she was forced to re-connect. We, along with Dallas, push to find that one connection that will foil and undermine the alibis and the smoke screens that Ava Anders has so carefully built. For Ava has told one story about her husband’s character, and not another soul that knew the man will agree with those allegations.

In this entry, Robb forgoes the typical psychotic or serial killer format that usually ends with a serious physical confrontation between Eve and the killer. This time, the battle between the two is truly one of wits, instead. And the denouement is a thrilling, play-within-a-play. However, the best part of the story is the way Robb builds the case, through Eve, step by logical step, against the normal odds, always with an eye on the difference between justice and the law, and always with a focus on the idea of partnership, be it between Eve and Roarke or Eve and her detectives.

But, never fear, Eve does get to take down a couple of non-murderous perps physically as the book progresses. Quite frankly, it just wouldn’t be an In Death entry without a dream or a black eye.

Cover Art From Goodreads

Blood Rites

Blood Rites_JimButcher_8181487

IT WAS ALL A LIE

5 STARS

In the previous book in this series (Death Masks), Jim Butcher lays out four revelations regarding Harry Dresden that promise to be possible pivot points in the ongoing storyline. Using the character of Nicodemus, a demon collaborator with the Fallen, as his conduit, Butcher first provides both the reader and Harry an additional piece of evidence that his mother had been a practitioner of black magic. Secondly, Nicodemus tells Harry that he is not an only child but his mother’s youngest child.

Thirdly, Nicodemus informs Harry that he is not totally human and could border on being immortal. Harry actually misses that part, by the way, due to the pain and agony caused by Nicodemus torturing him at the time.

And finally, in the last pages, Nicodemus tricks Harry into picking up a coin bearing the sigil of one of the Fallen that he has thrown right at the feet of Michael Carpenter’s baby. Quite frankly, it never dawns on Harry to just grab the baby up. Instead, without a holy cloth barrier, Harry slams his hand down on the coin. When he does, a force shoots up his arm; he feels a soul stretching into wakefulness and then hears soft, indistinct whisperings. Oh, yeah – cliffhanger and pivot point all in one package!

Now, in this very next book, those four pivots morph into a fulcrum on which is mounted a catapult loaded with the fiery orbs of truth about Harry’s birth, his childhood and his apprenticeship as wizard of the White Council. And the unraveling of that truth starts out so innocently.

Thomas Raith, a vampire in the ruling House of the White Court, hires Harry to identify and stop the entity that is trying to kill Arturo Genoso, a movie producer who is trying to break away from a big studio on the West Coast and start his own production company in Chicago. From Thomas’ description of the two attempts that have killed women around Genoso, but not Genoso himself, Harry figures an entropy curse is in play. That type of curse is something Harry likes to steer well clear of, but Thomas plays the “I’ve-saved-your-hide-several-times-now-it’s-your-turn” card. So Harry signs on.

The remainder of the novel takes place in a little over 48 hours. But, in that short time, Jim Butcher doesn’t just throw Dresden and the reader the one bone of an entropy curse to gnaw on and digest. He hits us with the whole hog – an entropy curse seeking to kill Harry, flaming purple demon monkeys trying to burn Harry alive, Black Court vampires trying to tear Harry to pieces, other Black Court vampires trying to burn Harry alive, Kincaid and McCoy at each other’s throats in front of Harry, and White Court vampires trying to sacrifice – literally and ritually – both Thomas and Harry.

Then, in the middle of these life-threatening scenarios, Butcher decides to up the ante and releases that catapult, one pivotal orb at a time. Massive deceptions and lies of omission are revealed, one after another, even as Harry battles the vampires and the maker of the entropy curse, trying to keep Thomas, Murphy and himself alive. By the time the final sling of the catapult flies, over three decades of Harry’s life have figuratively gone up in flames. And the literal flames have not been so good to Harry either.

Even by the midpoint of the book, the savvy reader knows that the ramifications of the truths revealed to that point are not such that Harry is going to be able to just take them in stride, say “so be it,” and move on. And by the end of the book, the final slings of the catapult stand to shatter the very backbone of Harry’s existence and sever from it the tenets on which he was raised by his father and McCoy.

Butcher makes you feel the hurt, the betrayal, the rage, the need to replace helplessness with power, and the desire to kill that is now throbbing through Harry’s veins and brain. As you approach the final pages you cannot help but feel that the next book or two will be heavy and dark. And you wonder whether Butcher will, in that time, choose to lose the wise-cracking private investigator who champions human rights or will bring out, instead, a practitioner of the magic that is as black as the glove Harry now wears on his left hand.

Cover Art From Goodreads