Storm Front by Jim Butcher

First, the horribly truncated summary: Modern-day wizard figures out that a scorpion does not belong in the desk drawer at work.

Seriously, do scorpions even belong in Chicago? I’ve heard that they like it out here in the Mojave Desert, but we are a far cry from Chicago. Needless to say, they do not belong in a work office. Scorpion = wasp + spider + crab. Their poison requires immediate medical attention. One does not mistake them for pencils or a hairbrush.

Oh, it wasn’t alive when he put it in there, you say? You can never trust a dead scorpion. Those things will live past doomsday, feasting on the ever-breeding roaches that call the desert home.

I’m getting away from myself. Harry Dresden is our protagonist who works as a wizard in modern-day Chicago. It’s the epitome of paranormal + crime noir, which is a pretty good combination to have (better than teen romance + paranormal, which is now the thing). In true Noir fashion, he gets two cases that have nothing to do with each other on the same day. The first case is a missing person case, the second is a double homicide where the hearts of the victims leapt out of their chest mid-coitus.

According to the CSI shows I’ve seen, death and sex are often less than fifteen minutes apart, so this is probably common for them. Their hearts shooting like a rocket from the chest cavity, not as much.

Which does Dresden investigate first? Missing person case. Why? Paying customer. Can’t say I blame him, since he lives with a cat on the edge of freelance destitution.

This is a fun, albeit predictable, read. I really do like the idea of a modern-day wizard working with the police to solve the weirder crimes of Chicago. It took me a while to get to this review because of the problems I had with it (besides predictability). First, the writing style was utterly unnerving. It’s akin to cracking a joke to the audience right before each commercial break. I’ve read that Butcher gets better with his style as the series goes on, so I might try for future books. Just not right away.

Also, when one duplicates noir in the modern era, one requires a deft hand. The idea that technology goes haywire whenever Dresden is nearby is a clever means of limitation, but it feels like Butcher is clinging to noir stereotypes for his characters. I saw the misogyny label thrown around by some and, while I won’t fully agree, I can see where it comes from.

Lastly, Dresden’s backstory is alluded to, but never finished. Many things are treated that way, like the Wizard’s White Counsel, the Underworld, and several elements that would have given the book much more depth than the joking one-liners. Perhaps it goes away as the writing improves and the characters have more history to build upon, but I won’t continue this series on that hope.

Three stars. Quick, fun, predictable plot with some surprises (fairies like pizza, who knew?).

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