Series: The Dresden Files #1
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Orbit Books on 1 May 2011
Reading Challenges: 2013 In Uniform Challenge
Harry Dresden is the only Wizard P.I. listed in America and he walks the mean streets of Chicago solving paranormal cases. He consults for the Chicago police force who bring him in to help solve a nasty double murder that was done using magic. The police suspect him of being responsible given the skill it would take to perform such a deed and the real killer has started targeting him. Can life get any worse? Sure, he also has to find a missing husband who recently became interested in the occult.
Harry is unfortunately a walking, talking old school P.I. cliche. For 50 bucks an hour plus expenses, duster-wearing Harry will put his all into investigating your case. He can’t be bought even though he is perpetually behind on his rent, he’s a stubborn SOB and he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He also is fairly misogynistic when it comes to women. The impression we are supposed to have is of a fairly tough guy but that is at odds with his behaviour as he throws up when he sees victims that were murdered in a gruesome fashion, he shudders at the sight of scorpions etc. I can’t help feeling that even though Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe or even Archie Goodwin didn’t have magic powers, they would have got the case solved a bit faster by knocking some heads together. He also gets bullied by just about everyone from his date to the White Council. I felt like yelling at him to just ‘grow some’. Harry’s sense of humour is a bit hit and miss. Some of his comments were hilarious and others were just plain juvenile and not what I was expecting from an adult.
The women are fairly stereotypical noir fodder. I actually got sick of the women being described as feminine and defined by their hair style and looks. Nearly all of them try to seduce Harry (because he’s so desirable??) and Harry has to put them firmly in their place. Take the vampiress for example, Harry saw her without her glamour and she was so devastated she coughed up the info he wanted. The tough, no nonsense female detective (with feminine hands) actually cries when she can’t get what she wants. Really?
Plot wise, it was slow. Harry’s investigation technique is talking people into the ground. I hoped that because this was urban fantasy noir that we would get a bit more action rather than endless chatter and info-dumping. I got the connection between Harry’s police case and his private case fairly quickly so I spent quite a bit of time waiting for Harry to catch up.
I wasn’t too impressed with the world-building. We find out fairly quickly that Harry is in deep doo-doo with the White Council and that he killed his mentor. Fascinating stuff that is never really expanded on. Harry rarely uses magic but it isn’t that impressive when he does as he drops his staff (which we are told is essential to him casting) in a battle against the big baddie, lets Bob the talking skull who tells him how to make potions have a vacay (at a critical juncture) and pretty much just creates wind. Meh. His use of magic wasn’t capitalised on and just felt like it was a device to make him different from all the Philip Marlowe rip-offs that are out there. I wanted more in terms of setting as there was little that screamed out Chicago. Apparently wizards are really bad with technology which is why Harry’s house is lit by candles and he has cold showers. If that is the case though, why then does he have an office that uses technology like a phone and lights and not have any problems?
When I initially read this book I really liked it because it appealed to my love of noir. The more I sat and thought about it though, the more it started to come apart at the seams. I’ve heard that the series gets better so I’ll give another one a shot.