Completed: Death Masks (#5 of Dresden Files)

Cover: Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Death Masks
Jim Butcher
2003, U.S.

I had hoped to have The Hound of the Baskervilles finished by now for the readalong (if you’re participating, share the link to your thoughts on the RAL post by the end of the week–I’ll be done by then, promise!), but lacking that, some quick notes on my latest completed read.

Death Masks is the 5th of the Dresden Files, a series that is part mystery, part urban fantasy–and thus perfect for R.I.P. I’ve been (very slowly) making my way through the series in order, and by this point I think it’s safe to say that they pretty much follow the same formula: Harry Dresden, Wizard and P.I., finds himself entangled in a mess usually partly of his own making and partly as a result of an investigation he has been hired to solve (and/or to consult on for the Chicago PD). The action is nonstop, there’s pretty much a guarantee that a)Harry won’t get enough sleep b)he will completely miss an obvious clue because of either his tiredness or (more likely) a pretty lady c) he will face down a creature more powerful than himself but d) you know he will win in the end because 1) the good guys always do, especially when they’re the narrators and 2) he’s not so good that he’s above cheating. So pretty standard stuff, and really not too much to think about past the first book or two (beyond maybe looking up the traditional stories about some of the creatures/legends Harry encounters). However, probably because of all the blogging/tweeting I’ve seen about diverse books and diverse characters this year, it finally dawned on me–the Dresden Files novels have a really diverse set of characters. I don’t spend much time with fantasy-type novels (Tolkien and children’s lit aside), but my understanding this a diverse cast of characters is not exactly common in the genre.

I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess

The end of R.I.P. & Rereads

So, as usual (it seems lately), I’m running a little behind with getting to my latest post. I had intended to write the final R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril post on Monday, the actual last day, but after finishing my final book, I somehow lost the motivation.

This is the first year I’ve participated in R.I.P., and I had a lot of fun. I wish I had had more time in September to read suspenseful and Gothic reads, and I may carry on with some to end out the year (after all, I’m still trying to get to my planned Dracula reread). I also enjoyed reading many R.I.P. posts and trying not to add too many more books to my to (re)read list!

When I first signed up, I thought it likely that I would only make it through two, maybe three novels, and so only set my sights on Peril the Second. However, as of Oct. 31, the very final day, I had successfully met

Four books! I’ve already discussed Death at La Fenice and Castle of Wolfenbach, but I thought I’d take some time to comment here on my final two reads, both from the same series, Storm Front and Fool Moon.

Some years ago, my brother introduced me to Jim Butcher’s Dresden novels. I don’t know if it was the setting (contemporary Chicago) or the mystery element that suggested to him the idea that this was a fantasy series I might be interested in. Likely a combination of both. Regardless, I read the first three…and then mostly forgot about them. Whether it was the crisp of autumn air or the need for a little silliness in my reading, I finally decided to return to them. I’m hoping to finish out the series (those published to date) by the end of the year, but that’s largely dependent on library availability. However, I quickly realized that starting with book four wasn’t going to work out so well: my memory for the first three books had faded enough that I decided to start from the beginning.

There are many reasons readers choose to reread a book: The feeling of returning home or meeting with an old friend, the ability to further analyze or study a great piece of literature, the feeling that something was missed in the first read that a subsequent read might find. I’ve reread books (or plan to) for all these reasons, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone mention, when they write about rereading, the idea of rereading because they’ve plain ol’ forgotten the book they’ve read. I suppose this forgetting could suggest that perhaps the book in question isn’t really that good. But I have to reject that because there are “great books” I’ve read that I don’t really remember, so this can’t be indicative on its own. I seem to just have a faulty rememberer for some things. (Now unimportant trivia that I will never use—and that I probably don’t even care about—that I can remember. Sigh.)

I’m not about to rush out and say the Dresden novels are great literature, however. No, much like Castle of Wolfenbach, they are just plain fun. (As long as you can overlook the, er, slightly gory bits. Monsters can be messy.) They do tend to reference events in previous books, though, so it’s helpful to actually be able to remember what happened. At least, I find it less annoying when I remember what happened.

The basic premise: our main character and narrator, Harry Dresden, is a wizard and private investigator—the only practicing wizard in the greater Chicago area. The books are set in a largely gritty world where the crime not only comes from seedy supernatural characters, but organized crime as run by Johnny Marcone. They are part mystery, part fantasy, and mostly non-stop adventure. And with all the vampires, werewolves, demons, and wizards, a perfect R.I.P. read. Also, I mustn’t forget the humor (which I found more noticeable in Storm Front than Fool Moon). Beyond the magic/fantasy creatures, there’s not really anything I found special compared to any other mystery-adventure novels. As fun reads, though, they are just the thing to get one out of a reading slump (or through a read-a-thon). So as the haunting season draws to a close, I will let my supernatural reading bleed over into the approaching holidays. And maybe pick up something a little more seasonal come late December!