Harry Dresden's shade is sent back to modern-day Chicago to find his killer. Before he died, Harry Dresden was Chicago's only professional wizard-for-hire. Now he's a ghost, and "Jack" Murphy tells him there's been an irregularity in his death.
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Dresden heads back to Chicago in search of the person who killed him. He first seeks out Mortimer Lindquist, an ectomancer, and one of the few magical talents who Dresden can rely on to be able to see him and interact with him. With Mortimer's help, Dresden gets in contact with some of his old allies, including Karrin Murphy, Waldo Butters, Molly Carpenter, Bob the Skull, and Father Forthill. As the meeting breaks up, there's a drive-by shooting, and Dresden tracks down the people responsible: a crew of kids, some of them with small amounts of magical talent, who've been taken in by a smalltime thug named Aristedes. Dresden speaks to the one kid who can hear him, a teenager named Fitz, and decides to try to help the kids despite their recent crimes.
Meanwhile, Mortimer Lindquist is kidnapped by the Corpsetaker, who needs to inhabit the body of a reasonably powerful magical talent if she wants to wield much power in the mortal world. She threatens and tortures Mortimer in hopes of making him agree to this (she needs permission, however fleeting).
Dresden gets Fitz to a safe place, and ends up helping his friends mount a rescue mission after Father Forthill meets with Aristedes and is attacked for his trouble. The next evening, he, Karrin, Molly, the werewolves, Butters, and Bob the Skull go up against the Corpetaker with the assistance of a large number of shades from Mortimer's house. Molly and the Corpsetaker end up in a dire standoff, which Molly wins when Mortimer influences a number of ghosts to attack the Corpsetaker at the same time. It is during this standoff that Dresden learns who his killer is: Kincaid, a man who killed Dresden following Dresden's own orders, with Molly helping Dresden to ensure that his memories of the phone call would be forgotten.
Dresden speaks with Uriel, and learns that the "irregularity" in his death was that one of the Fallen influenced him at a critical moment, speaking the seven words that would devastate Dresden and make him arrange his own death. As a result, Uriel is allowed to give Dresden seven words to help him.
At the denouement, Dresden's shade returns to his body, long held in a coma and sustained by the joint efforts of Demonreach, Queen Mab, and a "parasite" (a spirit of intellect living in Dresden's head). He is still the Winter Knight—a fate he had attempted to avoid with his death—and is momentarily afraid that this means he will inevitably be corrupted into a bloodthirsty monster. But then he hears seven words: "Lies. Mab cannot change who you are," and understands that although the Winter Knight's job is still pretty brutal, his fate has not necessarily been set in stone.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked learning more about Dresden's past and about how ghosts and ghostly magic works in the Dresden Files universe. I loved Dresden's interactions with Fitz, and I really hope he show up again in a later book. Father Forthill is an amazing person, as always. Molly Carpenter was brilliantly, if painfully, portrayed as someone with serious emotional scars as a result of the events of Changes, the book immediately preceding this one.
Best scene in story:
Dresden takes Fitz to Father Forthill for food, clothing and general support, and there's a glorious scene where Dresden first has to prove he's really himself using Fitz as a somewhat reluctant go-between. Then they have a short discussion, and the very human interaction between these three characters is quite touching. There's also a one-sided conversation between Forthill and Dresden (as Forthill cannot hear Dresden's replies) that is itself pretty interesting, but that's more of a nice bonus given the excellent scene preceding it.
Opinion about the main character:
Harry Dresden is determined, foolhardy, and creative, and it's nice to see him floundering in unfamiliar territory and putting the pieces together anew. His sense of humor is sometimes kind of dry, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and that hasn't changed even with Dresden's death.