Review: ‘Dead Beat’ by Jim Butcher (audio)


Dead Beat

Dresden Files #7

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date:  (original release date: )

Length: 15 hours 14 minutes (a 396 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)




Chicago’s preeminent wizard is coping with his new roommate–his vampire half-brother Thomas. Harry soon has problems bigger than Thomas’ clutter to deal with.

Mavra, one of Harry’s vampire foes, summons him with a threat to his police-lieutenant friend, Karrin Murphy. Mavra demands Harry get the Word of Kemmler for her, or she’ll frame Murphy for murder.

Harry doesn’t even know what the Word is, but while he’s trying to find out, and also what damage Marva will be able to do with it, several necromancers descend on Chicago. When Harry learns that the newcomers are students of Kemmler, an evil wizard who mastered ancient spirits in a way no one has since, he discovers that they are seeking the Word, too, in hopes of seizing the powerful knowledge within it and calling forth a powerful creature known as the Erlking.

Butcher’s latest maintains the momentum of previous Dresden outings and builds the suspense right up to a rousing conclusion.


My thoughts… and many spoilers:

This seventh installment of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series talks a lot about death. I know you wouldn’t get that from the name of the book, but it’s true. I promise. But seriously, there is a lot of deep thinking in this story, something that a lot of people may not expect from urban fantasy but, yeah… here it is. With this book and, indeed, the entire Dresden Files series, Butcher manages to create an entertaining mix of hilarity, sarcasm, action and complex emotion. He adds a touch of the macabre and ties it up with a hell of an adrenaline rush. What, you’ve never gotten an adrenaline rush from reading a book? My friend, you’ve just not found the right book.

And so Harry begins yet another fast-paced adventure with the regular crowd. Something of the regular crowd, anyway. Thomas is there, of course, since he’s now living with Harry after having been completely cut-off from his family and their money; Murphy’s there for a minute, just long enough to make Harry jealous over the fact that she’s jetting off to Hawaii on vacation… with Kincaid; Butters, Chicago’s funny little, polka-loving ME not only makes an appearance but features largely in the plot; Mouse the dogosaurus plays a bigger role in this book; Billy pops in a time or three and of course, Bob the skull is there and we get to see a new, scary-as-hell side of him.

We also get to meet a couple of new faces. Harry’s one-time persecutor Morgan, who is a Warden of the White Council, we’ve met… but his fellow Warden Carlos Ramirez is introduced in this book as is the Captain of the Wardens, Anastasia Luccio. We’ll see more of them in future books but the intros, especially that of Luccio, are significant.

On to the story. Harry gets a blackmail letter from someone he thought he had killed in the last book… none other than Mavra of the Black Court of vampires. She’s going to send some lovely snapshots of Murphy blowing a guy’s head off to the authorities if Harry doesn’t do as she bids. Of course, the guy Murphy offed was a Renfield who had literally been driven insane by the Black vamps –or Blampires, as Harry refers to the Black Court vampires in book #6, much to the chagrin of his former mentor, Ebenezer– and was no longer a person. But the photographs don’t show that, and really, what self-respecting cop who’s NOT a member of Murphy’s own Special Investigations Unit of the Chicago PD would believe that story?

So… Harry feels the need to protect Murphy, since he recruited her for Black vamp hunting in the first place. Of course, he takes the job and proceeds with trying to learn who Kemmler was and what the Word might be. Turns out that Kemmler was one evil necromancer and that Bob the skull used to work for him. He’s blocked out much of  his memory from that time but Harry orders him to remember and it nearly kills him.

Then necromancers start showing up all over the place. They pop into the morgue while Harry’s visiting with Waldo Butters, they show up at a bookstore where Harry ends up to search for a book that the necromancer at the morgue had in his possession, and they apparently kill a professor in a museum. Damn necromancers, making messes all over the place.

As Harry begins to piece together what they’re after and what they can do if they find it, he begins to feel a bit overwhelmed. These are powerful people that he’s up against and he’s pretty much got to face them alone. Not to mention, battered and beaten, as he generally becomes toward the climax of these books. At one point,  he’s visited in a dream by his father and really, it was quite an emotional scene. Upon realizing that this really IS his dad and not a figment of his imagination, we see Harry in a rare, vulnerable moment: “It’s getting to be too much,’ Harry says to his dad. ‘I just keep getting more wounded and tired. They just keep coming at me. I’m not some kind of a superhero, I’m just me.”

I really enjoyed this scene as it gave Harry a bit of hope to carry on with the fight and really, if Harry doesn’t carry on, the bad guys win. We can’t have that. This scene is absolutely perfected by the reading of James Marsters, who can instill so much emotion into his voice that it makes my throat close and my eyes water. And no, that wasn’t my body shaking with trembling sobs as I listened to this scene. I had the hiccups, okay? Let it go…

Another interesting moment in this book is when Harry calls the Wardens of the White Council for help. Five of them show up -only five- Captain Luccio and Morgan among them. They tell Harry how the Red Court has just decimated their numbers and Luccio appeals to Harry to join the Wardens and help them in their time of need:

Luccio: “I think that you do not realize your own reputation. You have overcome more enemies and battled more evils than most wizards a century your senior. And times are changing. There are more young wizards obtaining membership to the Council than ever before. Like Ramirez and his companions there. To them, you are a symbol of defiance to the conservative elements of the council and a hero who will risk his life when his principles demand it.” 

Harry: “I am?” 

Luccio: “You are. I can’t say I approve of it but right now, the Council will need every scrap of courage and faith we can muster. Your presence and support in the face of great danger will appease your detractors and the presence of a wizard who has experience in battle will encourage the younger members of the council. Put simply, Dresden, we need you. And you need us.”

Harry realizes the truth in her words and despite his less than friendly history with the Wardens, he dons the gray cloak, which gives us a fun little scene when Thomas and Bob see him: 

Thomas: “Holy crap.”  

Bob: “Harry, you stole a Warden’s cloak?” 

Harry: “I didn’t steal it.” 

Bob: “So you took it off a dead body?” 

Harry: “No, I got drafted.” 

Thomas: “Holy crap.”

Butters is present for this exchange and of course, has no clue as to what’s going on which just makes the scene that much more enjoyable. This is one thing I love so much about a series… you get to the point where you know the characters and their histories so well that a short conversation such as the one I just mentioned is hilarious to read and sticks with you as one of those awesome story moments.

Despite his father’s reassurances and the presence of his brother and his friends, Harry gets to feeling a bit downtrodden in this book: ‘I didn’t feel like a wizard,’ he thought during a rare moment of quiet solitude. ‘I didn’t feel like a deadly and powerful Warden. I didn’t feel like the supernatural champion of Chicago or a fearless foe of evil, a daring summoner able to cast his defiance into the teeth of a supernatural titan or an enlightened sage of the mystic arts. I felt like a scarred, battered, aching, one-handed man with few pleasant prospects for the future and a ridiculous pair of pants with one leg slashed off.’

This is, of course, what Harry thinks of his dire situation. Despite the fact that he’s used to going it alone, he actually does have people standing behind him and beside him now. It’s something that’s not easy for him to get used to but he needs to realize that he can depend on those people because he’ll need them even more in future books.

A few notable events that require a mention before I wrap this up. First, the Erlking… the necromancers are planning to summon him in order to facilitate their super-nasty ritual which Harry is trying to prevent from taking place. So Harry figures that if he can summon him first and then trap him, then the naughty necromancers won’t get to play. This just actually pisses off the Erlking in a really big way and so he’s got Harry’s name on his list. I mention him mainly because we’ll be seeing him a bit later in the series.

Next… I have to say how incredibly awesome it is when Harry goes riding down the street into battle with the necromancers on Sue’s back. Sue, of course, is the tyrannosaur from the museum. Sure, necromancy is bad, but Sue wasn’t a person, was she? I love the way Harry thinks and I absolutely loved this scene.

Finally, Harry speaks with Lasciel in this book. Yes, that Lasciel… the fallen angel whose coin is buried in Harry’s lab. He’s previously understood that she’s the reason he’s been using Hellfire so he knew that she was extending her influence in some way. But he didn’t realize how very close she actually was, to manifest in his dreams… and then some. I won’t say all, but we will be seeing more of Lasciel later in the series.

Okay, I think I’ve been quite wordy enough for the nonce so I’ll get on with listening to the series in preparation for the release of book #13, Ghost Story in a couple of months. Can’t wait! Next on the list, book #8, Proven Guilty. Mr. Marsters, you may begin.


My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: gets jealous about Murphy going to Hawaii with Kincaid; thinks about death a lot; gets blackmailed by Mavra to find the Word of Kemmler or she’ll take Murphy down with pictures of her killing a Renfield; learns that his hand will eventually regenerate; talks with his dead father in a dream; encounters various necromancers; admits to Billy & Georgia that he’s been unwillingly using Hellfire; gets asked out on a date; has a dream-chat with Lasciel; joins the Wardens after the Red Court wipes out 3/4 of their numbers; and Harry uses necromancy to re-animate the bones of a friggin’ tyrannosaur which he then busts out of the museum and rides into battle.


Fave quotes:

‘Chicago has a bitchin morgue.’

‘A raised hand isn’t much in the regular world but from a guy in a long coat with his own flock of zombies, it had to be at least as menacing as pointing a gun.’

“I don’t want to get killed. Or arrested. I’m really bad at being arrested. Or killed.” ~Butters, to Harry

Harry: “How are you as a sounding board?”  Thomas: “I can look interested and nod at appropriate times.”  Harry: “Good enough.”

“I’m so pretty, it’s hard to think of myself as intelligent.” ~Thomas

“Polka will never die!” ~Butters

“I just don’t like the idea of sitting on the sidelines when you might need my help. Hey. You’re doing this on purpose. You’re trying to keep me out of it to protect me, you… sneaky little bitch.” ~Thomas to Harry

‘I didn’t know this before but it turns out, tyrannosaurs can really haul ass.’

“But I want to go with you, I want to help. I’m not afraid to… die fighting beside you.” ~Butters to Harry

Harry: “Come on, Ramirez.”  Ramirez: “Everyone else who lets me ride on their dinosaur calls me Carlos.”

“I’m brilliant as well as skilled. It’s a great burden, all of that on top of my good looks, but I try to soldier on as best I can.” ~Ramirez

“BOB! You have… my… permission!” ~Harry

“Size really does matter.” ~Bob the Skull


Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story

4 thoughts on “Review: ‘Dead Beat’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

  1. Paige – Great review! This is one of my favorite Dresden Files stories. I can just imagine Sue tearing down Lake Shore drive with Harry and Butters on her back. Butters and his one-man polka band pounding out the beat…

    However, you missed a character who plays a role in this book and I can’t believe you forgot him! Mouse! Mouse really helps take a bite out of one of the bad guys – Cassius. Surely, Mouse deserves an honorable mention if nothing else.

    I love the humor you put in your review. You had me cracking up! Was some of that humor Dresden-inspired? 🙂

    Again, great review and some great quotes.


    • I had kind of left that bit out so as to avoid spoiling the surprise! I’ll consider adding it because it’s not like I’m generally shy about spoilers.

      But thanks for reading and thanks for the comment! ;o)


  2. Yeah, I’m totally using your reviews as my recap before Ghost Story! I’ll never have time to reread all the stuff I want to this year!

    Also, Butters is awsome too. I loved this book and didn’t even remember that Murphy practically wasn’t in it!


    • Awww, that gives me warm fuzzies! Thanks for trusting my summaries to remind you of events before book 13. I’ll try not to leave out any big points!

      Butters is indeed awesome! I loved when he said he wasn’t afraid to die fighting beside Harry… because he so obviously was! But polka will never die and I suppose the thought of that gives the little guy courage. :o)


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