Time for part five of my reviews of author Jim Butcher’s awesome fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and detective series The Dresden Files! Harry is once again getting himself into trouble (is this any surprise by now?) and we are brought along for the thrilling ride that will (as always) change his life forever…
Death Masks opens with Harry appearing on the Larry Fowler Show, a talk show that one might consider a slightly more “polite” version of the Jerry Springer Show. But the odd part is, the other guests aren’t really there to discuss the days topic which is, “Witchcraft and Wizardry-Phony or Fabulous?” No, they’re all there oddly (or really, expectedly) enough, to meet with Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden about something important. Mortimer Lindquist, a local spiritualist has come to tell Harry that his former girlfriend still lives, in Peru. Then there’s Father Vincent, a representative from the Vatican, who has come to procure Harry’s services in receiving the Shroud of Turin which has been stolen. And finally, there is Red Court nobel Don Paolo Ortega, who wishes to challenge Harry to a duel to end the war between the Red Court and White Council.
Butcher certainly doesn’t waste any time getting us into the action of the book. As soon as Harry botches his appearance on the Larry Fowler show (magical energy doesn’t react so well around technology), he accompanies Father Vincent to his car where the pair are promptly attacked. Right off the bat we already know that something isn’t right. Someone doesn’t want Harry to find the missing Shroud of Turin. Bad day, bad day, bad day.
Of course, Harry is not an expert in religious matters, so when he is rescued from a terrible demon attack by Michael Carpenter (whom we first met in Grave Peril) and his fellow Knights of the Cross, Shiro and Sanya and the trio ask Harry to stop searching for the Shroud, he refuses. Poor stubborn Harry. He just cannot take good advice when it comes along. Can you blame him? Look at what the Vatican is willing to pay! He might be able to get a good meal or two this month!
Eventually Harry discovers that the knights had received an angelic prophecy that said that if Harry is involved in the search for the Shroud of Turin he will die. However, Harry uncovers that this is only part of the prophecy. The knights aren’t aware of the second part of the prophecy which states that if he isn’t involved, the three of them will be the ones who die. Crap, crap, crap, crap.
So, what do all these big, bad demons now stalking Chicago want with the Shroud of Turin? And what about that assault after the Larry Fowler Show? What was that all about? What does a mysterious body that winds up in the morgue (having apparently died of every disease ever) have to do with the Shroud? Can Harry save the knights from dying? Can he save himself? And what about Don Paolo Ortega and that “duel to end the war?” Will Ortega be truthful to his word? Will he betray it? Can Harry even find a way to win supposing the duel is a fair fight? Did I mention Harry has problems?
If you like good, old-fashioned sword fights, given that Michael and the Knights of the Cross are major players in this chapter, there are a lot of those. This is one of the most action-packed chapters of The Dresden Files so far, and a lot of it is brutal melee combat, so it’s not always for the squeamish. But then again, the adventures of Harry Dresden aren’t really for the squeamish to begin with. Once again, after traversing the events of this book, Harry’s life will never be the same.