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Book Review: Dead Beat

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Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher

Dead Beat is the seventh book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.  The series follows Harry Dresden, a modern-day wizard living in Chicago.  In this book, Harry goes up against a new kind of foe – zombies.  He is approached by Mavra, a Black Court vampire, to retrieve something called The Word of Kemmler.  If he doesn’t get the Word for her, Mavra will send incriminating pictures of Murphy to SI that could very likely get her fired.  To protect his friend, Dresden goes on a hunt for The Word.  Along the way, he meets some new bad guys, and some old ones, who are also looking the The Word.  He has to defeat them so that Chicago doesn’t end up like the first ten minutes of The Wizard of Oz.  Also, there is a zombie T-Rex.  Named Sue.

Warning: Spoilers follow here.

The book starts off with Mavra sending Harry photos of Murphy from when their group tried to take down Mavra’s gang in the last book.  In the photos, Murphy is using the sawed off shotgun as a weapon.  Dresden meets up with Mavra to discuss the photos.  Mavra threatens to expose Murphy is Dresden doesn’t bring her something called The Word of Kemmler.  After their talk, Dresden asks Bob about The Word, and Bob confesses that he used to work for Kemmler himself, an evil wizard.  His Word is teaching others who wanted to be like him how to wreak major havoc.  Back in the day, the Council wiped out Kemmler and most of his disciples but a few managed to survive.  The oldest disciple is a man named Grevane, a necromancer.  Grevane introduces himself to Dresden and Butters by attacking them with zombies at the morgue.  They escape, narrowly, and now Butters must learn to accept supernatural phenomena.  Meanwhile, Grevane was seeking Butters for some reason, and Dresden needs to figure out why.  Dresden remembers a corpse in the morgue by the name of Eduardo Mendoza.  Also known as Bony Tony, one of Marcone’s men.  Tony was killed by a car on the interstate, and upon further investigation, a balloon is found in his throat containing a piece of paper with numbers written on it.  Most of the book is spent trying to figure out what the numbers mean.  Dresden learns of a book called Die Lied der Erlking that could help him in finding The Word since it seems like all the bad guys are after Erlking, and heads over to Bock Ordered Books to find it.  After an associate named Sheila (who turns out to be Lasciel, the Fallen from the coin Harry buried in his lab) helps locate the book for him, he purchases it and leaves the store.  Directly outside the store, Dresden meets Cowl and Kumori, two hooded figures that are also trying to get The Word.  He fights them but is saved by The Alphas in the end.  After a tip from his old pal Mortimer, Dresden heads over to the Field Museum where it’s discovered that a gruesome murder has just taken place.  A professor is killed and his two assistants are missing.  The two assistants turn up later as Corpsetaker and his ghoul, Li.  Dresden now is fighting three different sets of enemies, all of whom are trying to snatch the book he just purchased, as well as find The Word.  After a meeting with Mab, we learn that the Erlking is an ancient fairy lord who calls up dead spirits and controls them in what is called The Wild Hunt.  If a disciple of Kemmler is able to call up the Erlking, and then steal his undead power, the disciple can combine it with their own undead power and turn themselves into a god just on power alone.  Erlking gives the disciple the means of calling up the Erlking to take his power, and The Word tells the disciple what to do once they have the power in order to reach god status.  All the enemies involved – Cowl and Kumori, Grevane (and his sidekick Liver Spots), and Corpsetaker are all necromancers – people who can control the dead.  It would be easy for them to accomplish their goal of godhood.  Feeling more than overwhelmed, Dresden calls the Council.  Luccio, the head Warden, Morgan, and three other Wardens come to Chicago to help Harry out and in the process make Harry a Warden.  Harry and Butters follow the numbers from Bony Tony’s throat, which are lattitude and longitude, on a GPS system to find The Word.  They find it and are immediately jumped by Grevane, Liver Spots, and their band of zombies.  After snatching The Word from Dresden’s hands, Grevane leaves Liver Spots with Harry.  Liver Spots reveals himself to be Snake Boy, from book 5 – the shape-shifting snake creature that Harry badly cripples at the end.  Now it’s payback time.  Snake Boy toys with Harry and hurts him pretty badly until Mouse shows up to take Snake Boy down.  Once he’s dead, Harry and Butters head into town with their own version of necromancy – riding the bones of Sue the T-Rex.  There is of course an epic battle and Morgan tries to kill Harry because of a misunderstanding.  Luccio squares off with Corpsetaker, only to have their souls switched at the last second.  Luccio’s soul is now inhibiting the body that Corpsetaker’s used to.  Harry and Ramirez, one of the new Wardens, take out Grevane and his nasties on Sue, then jump down to take on Cowl.  Cowl takes Ramirez down with a sucker punch, and Kumori hold a knife to Dresden’s throat daring him to try and stop Cowl.  Cowl brings out the stolen Bob and places him on the ground.  This gives Harry the advantage to talk to Bob.  He gives Bob permission to leave the skull, and Bob possesses Sue and takes out Cowl and Kumori that way.  Crisis averted.  Luccio has new, younger body to deal with, Morgan seems to come to some terms with Harry about becoming a Warden, and Butters helps Harry slowly gain control of his hand again.  All is well.

I have three suggestions for why the book is titled Dead Beat: at the beginning, Harry feels like Thomas is a deadbeat after living with him for a year and becoming annoying.  In order to keep the zombies under their will, necromancers have to have a steady beating sound that the zombies can hear so that they think it’s a heartbeat; you have to beat a rhythm for the dead.  And at the end, Harry is just dead beat.  It all works.

It took me forever to get through this book.  I read the first six books in a month, and it’s taken me a month to read just this one!  Awful.  But once I got over the middle hump, it was all good.  I hate that Murphy is with Kincaid.  He’s a jerk.  I absolutely love Mouse.  I’m going to have a gray dog one day and name it Mouse.  And of course, Butters.  He’s so awesome.  And really funny.  I love the ending where they ride Sue into town to do their thing.  And the friendship between Dresden and Ramirez is really cool.  As for Lasciel, I really want her intentions to be good, but because of what she is I have a lot of doubts.  She keeps offering to help Harry and tried to show him she means him no harm, but just like Harry said, she is a master manipulator.  I hope she doesn’t cause a whole heap of turmoil for Harry later on.  Two books from now is White Knight, so that certainly sounds like Michael returns.  Maybe the next book deals with her and she is the one proven guilty?  I don’t know.  We shall see!

For Next Time

Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher

The White Council of Wizards has drafted Harry Dresden as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in Chicago. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in the Windy City, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob.


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