In two months I’ve managed to fly through the series of books called The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. I’m up to book 9 already, and it’s been a ball. This series of books is about a Wizard called Harry Dresden, in modern day Chicago, who advertises himself in the yellow pages and takes on cases involving mysterious beings, Faerie, Vampires, and all manner of other nasties. The first book starts fairly light, with Dresden taking on a mysterious case with links to the criminal underworld and a vampire. But over the series of books it becomes clear that something much bigger is on the move, and Harry Dresden is at the centre of it.

The books are done in a generally pulp detective/ film noir style, a kind of Maltese Falcon meets Harry Potter sort of writing which is easy to read, very plot-heavy, and self-consciously deals in stereotypes and plot twists you are meant to guess. The plots are clever but never so complex as to be misleading, and Harry Dresden is a likeable and funny chap who is just imperfect enough that you are willing to believe it when his emotions lead him astray, or he makes silly mistakes. Like every good private Eye, he has his own dark past which is continually coming back to bite him, and he isn’t always on the side of the righteous – and all the “good” powers in the book are pigheaded and silly, just like they should be. Every story is a tale of an ordinary man with ordinary flaws, overcoming extraordinary challenges to ultimately triumph because he is, ultimately, a good man.

These books also remind me of the Flashman Papers, in that the anti-hero is immediately likeable, and they mingle the pulp writing of the genre with some really nice writing. In the first book, for example, the scene where Dresden traps a faerie by a lake using pizza, in order to get information, is both very pulpy, very funny and eerily otherworldly. It is well written and classically pokes fun at every genre it is part of, while self-consciously revelling in the details of those genres. Even in the later books, when the challenges facing Harry Dresden are much greater, the books remain light-hearted and well aware of the rules of their genre, without being bound by them. This makes them both entertaining, engrossing and very impressive. And, at the same time, just as with the Flashman Papers, the reader (well, me at least) is confronted with that most artfully constructed of characters – someone whose beliefs and motivations you don’t necessarily agree with or support, but whose humanity and believability cause you both to support him through thick and thin, and to challenge your own views and assumptions. This is, I think, a rare and well-written character.

So, having consumed 9 of the buggers in 2 months, I strongly commend them to you, dear reader.

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