In an opening scene far-removed from the norm for The Dresden Files book series, Harry is making a guest appearance on a local talk show, discussing paranormal lore. While for fans of the series it may seem that Harry has lost his mind, he actually is participating in a clandestine meeting with a spiritual consultant, the authentic kind.
However, Harry is blind sighted by another guest on the show, Paola Ortega, posing as a Professor who debunks supernatural “incidents,” though Harry knows this person is in reality far different than what he appears to be. Ortega is a noble member of the vampire’s Red Court, and his real purpose for the deception is to issue a challenge to a duel with Harry, to end the war between the vampires and the White Council of Wizards.
Adding to this dangerous situation, a Vatican representative is in Chicago to hire Harry to investigate the local occult community for a stolen artifact. Father Vincent doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal, but he will go to any lengths to recover the Shroud of Turin, which he sees as only a historical relic.
Harry, however, knows the artifact is far more than just that, and also how dangerous such a thing can be in the wrong hands. If certain groups, all whom are clamoring for Harry’s attention, get hold of the Shroud, it could mean the end of the world. Between the impending duel with the vampire, a group of Fallen Angels whose servants can assume the form of monsters and friends alike, and the attentions of the local mafia headed by Marcone, Harry has a full plate. Luckily he has God’s Knights of the Cross on his side.
Like the opening, the ending of this book leaves Harry in an unusual position, as he becomes just like the Lady of the Lake, holding a sword he is duty-bound to pass onto a worthy individual, as soon as he finds them.
I am amazed at how author Jim Butcher continues to keep this series fresh, with new ideas, new monsters, and creative new encounters with the supernatural, all while strengthening the relationships between existing and recurring characters. His battles are vivid scenes that can thrill the reader, while at the same time Harry’s doubts and vulnerabilities make him seem all the more human.
Butcher continues the formula that is one part detective story, one part romance, and one part paranormal adventure, in a tale that will delight readers old and new alike. I award Death Masks five stars, and look forward to the next book in the series, to see what happens with the continuing arc in the plot, but also for what Butcher comes up with next.