Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
Right, seriously. It’s tough to review the later Dresden Files books, because I want to avoid spoilers. So recently I’ve avoided all but the barest sketches of plot and just focused on writing about things I’ve found interesting in the series.
It’s even more difficult for Ghost Story, because it basically picks up right where Changes left off, so I’m struggling to even get the plot summary to “bare sketch”. Changes ended with something of a twist, and a large part of Ghost Story is concerned with Harry figuring out what the hell happened. Although, actually, what happened isn’t exactly confusing. It’s not really a “who dunnit”, because even though the identity of the person responsible for said twist is fairly clear – it’s not outright stated, but it has been very very heavily foreshadowed in at least two or three previous books. So rather than an obvious who dunnit, it’s actually more of a “yeah, but why?” that runs as the overarching ‘mythology’ part of the plot through the book. And the resolution to it is really, really good, and makes Harry’s choices in Changes seem more in character.
Yep. That’s probably suitably vague. I can get a bit more specific on the self-contained story of the book itself. But only a little. Ghosts are attacking the home of Mortimer Lindquist, Chicago’s premier spirit-whisperer, and a reluctant ally of Harry’s. And it seems that the person at the head of the ghost army is Bob, Harry’s wisecracking skull spirit/lab assistant, gone entirely insane. It also emerges pretty quickly that (minor spoiler) Corpsetaker is involved. Corpsetaker was one of the cast of necromancers in Dead Beat, whose lifestyle involved killing people and taking their bodies. Harry killed her, so she’s dead (I feel that both parts of that sentence are required). Hence, we have plenty of reasons to call this book Ghost Story.
What I really enjoyed about this book is how it has an idea and absolutely commits to it irrevocably and with great confidence. It gets deep into the minutiae of how ghosts work in the Dresden Files universe, with all sorts of technicalities about the importance of household thresholds on ghosts, what ghosts can and can’t do and so on. It would be easy to get caught up in justifying why all of this is the case, but Butcher doesn’t feel the need to do that. He just presents his rules as fact, with confidence, in a sort of “this is what’s happening, now let’s deal with the consequences.” He doesn’t backtrack, or equivocate, he just does it.
It’s similar to what good TV shows do – they give you a twist, and there’s no messing about, or reconsidering, or possibly backtracking or anything. It just does it and gets on with it. I really like that.
I’ve got very little else to say about Ghost Story that isn’t ludicrous spoiling of the series. I really loved what Butcher did with Molly’s character. And there’s quite a bit of backstory that gets a proper examination for the first time, particularly Harry’s defeat of an Outsider (a superpowerful demon from outside the fabric of reality or the Nevernever) called He-Who-Walks-Behind when he was but a teenager. That was a really cool detail which has helped to set up even more items of interest for the series moving forward.
Overall, I think Ghost Story was a slight step back from Changes, but Changes was absolutely fantastic.
Why you should read it: because it’s a good example of a book in a series switching things up but maintaining high quality.
Why you shouldn’t read it: because if you were only going to read one Dresden Files book (I’m not sure why you’d do that) it shouldn’t be this one.
Next up: Cold Days by Jim Butcher