Author: Jim Butcher
Narrator: James Marsters
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 21 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But he also knows that whenever things are going good, the only way left for them to go is bad. Way bad.
Recent examples: A duel with the lethal champion of the Red Court, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…Hit men using Harry for target practice…The missing Shroud of Turin-and the possible involvement of Chicago’s most feared mob boss…A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…
Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semi-vampiric nature-and who seems to have a new man in her life.
Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.”
Thoughts: As the fifth book in the Harry Dresden series, Death Masks continues to follow the same format as the first four books. Harry is in desperate need of money. He takes a case. This case leads him into deeper troubles. The Chicago PD gets involved in some capacity. He never sleeps. He gets hurt. A lot. Eventually, most of the loose ends get tied up nicely, with some remaining stories still unresolved to keep the reader’s interest for future stories. Predictable, methodical, and yet utterly addicting.
So what is it about such a formulaic series that keeps readers coming back for more? It all revolves around Harry. Harry Dresden is a character with more character than almost anything else one will read these days. He is fully cognizant of his flaws and does nothing to improve them. He can be utterly dense, causing the reader to groan aloud in disbelief on more than one occasion. He is sarcastic, bombastic, completely lacking in tact and finesse. Yet, the reader remains firmly behind Harry in spite, better yet because of his gaffes. He may be a wizard, but he is a human first and foremost. His loneliness and desire to make the world a better place make him exactly like most other humans. While a reader may not be able to call up fire or wind with an effort of will, the reader understands what it is like to seek love and companionship, to feel chagrined at having to ask for help, for wanting to keep loved ones safe, and for wanting to rid the world of evil. The reader can relate, and Harry shines.
One note on the audio production: James, James, James, James, James. You know my love for you knows no bounds. Yet, your performance on Death Masks left me confused and a little concerned about listening to the rest of the series on audio. For one thing, you changed pronunciations of certain words. Second, you changed voices on key characters. Can’t you remember the voice you did on the first four books? I could forgive you on some of them, but Bob? That is inexcusable. While I was not forced to listen to the lip smacking and gum flapping from the previous book, I just could not get over the slight changes you made to these now well-known characters. I am willing to give you one more chance, but then you and I might have to part ways. The thought just makes me depressed. Please make sure your performance on book six is consistent. Otherwise, I will be forced to retract my statement about everyone needing a little James Marsters in their life.
In spite of the concerns about the audio performance, Mr. Butcher’s formula is extremely effective, and a reader is sucked back into the drama and the snark without effort. If you have not yet had the pleasure of discovering Harry Dresden’s Chicago world, I am not certain what else it will take to get you to try out at least the first book in the series. Death Masks is another strong performance in an equally strong series that remains one of the better ways to spend an afternoon.
Acknowledgements: I purchased this from Audible.