Friday, 12 December 2008
‘Fool Moon’ – Jim Butcher (Orbit Books)
I’ve been more than a little haphazard in my approach to the ‘Harry Dresden’ series, starting at book one and then leaping straight into books nine and ten... Luckily the books that I’ve read, in the series, have all appeared to be fairly readable on their own but there’s still that sense of an all encompassing storyline that I’m missing out on...
I’ve been trying to get into a particular book, for most of this week, but it just hasn’t happened yet so I thought I would take a little time out and try something a little different. As luck would have it, ‘Fool Moon’ (the second book in the ‘Dresden Files’) had managed to find its way into the ‘To Be Read’ pile and now seemed like a good time to rectify my approach to the series and get back in on the ground floor so to speak...
After the explosive events of ‘Storm Front’ (namely one hell of a fight with an insane sorcerer) Harry Dresden has found paid work very hard to come by, no-one seems to want the services of Chicago’s only practicing wizard... Then he gets a call from his contact in the Chicago PD, interesting in itself as she hasn’t spoken to him in monthes. There have been a series of brutal murders in town and a strange set of paw prints have been found at the scene of the latest one. And it’s a full moon as well... The answer is clear to Harry, there’s a werewolf in town. The question is though, which one of a range of suspects is ultimately responsible for the murders? Finding out is going to be a killer...
Having read a few of the ‘Harry Dresden’ books I had a fair idea of what to expect, namely a slice of detective noir with plenty of urban fantasy thrown into the mix. In this respect ‘Fool Moon’ didn’t disappoint with it’s tale of a ‘Private Eye Wizard’ going up against the Chicago Mob as well as werewolves. There are moments where Harry’s introspection derails the pace of the plot but, apart from these moments, things flow fairly smoothly with a plot that has a clear sense of direction and loads of plot twists that you only realise were signposted (the whole time) after they’ve actually happened. Detective work, for Harry, generally seems to consist of trudging from place to place and looking for information but there are also plenty of moments where the action really heats up. A werewolf taking out a police station is one of the highlights but the finale also has a real sense of urgency about it that makes it well worth the time reading.
It was also good to go back to the beginning of the series and see how Harry starts to develop into the character I met in ‘White Night’ and ‘Small Favour’. Having given us a mysterious, downbeat wizard (in ‘Storm Front’) Butcher now starts to slowly fill in some of the gaps in his history. We know that some bad things have happened in Harry’s life but we don’t yet know the details... This approach works for me and I’m sure that I’ll pick up book three (at some point) to see if any more pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
A problem that I’ve begun to find (having read a few of these books now) is that the formula in each book seems to be very similar. Something along the lines of ‘Dresden gets called in to solver a crime, Dresden looks for clues, Dresden gets beaten up, Dresden finds a clue, Dresden has more questions’ and so on... Although I couldn’t guess the ending from this (or what the twists were going to be) I did start to get a feel for when things were about to happen and this robbed the story of much of its tension.
To be fair though, these are the rules of this particular sub-genre and there was still some enjoyment to be had in reading ‘Fool Moon’ in this way. While some of the tension did go out of the story it was also good to be able to know that certain events (such as a fight or a moment of revelation) were due to come round. In this sense I guess ‘Fool Moon’ was a comfort read for me (even though I’d never read it before) but it was still a comfort read that was entertaining and had me gripped throughout.
Like I’ve just said, ‘Fool Moon’ is a comfort read but that just happened to be what I was after at a time of year when everything seems to be getting colder and a little more bleak everyday (I went out barefoot this morning, to take the rubbish out, and almost lost skin off my feet!). It wasn’t a book that made me think too hard but it was one that I enjoyed. As soon as I can find myself a copy of book three, ‘Grave Peril’ I think, I’ll be straight into that one too.
Eight out of Ten