By Jim Butcher (Official Webpage)
Buy it here: Dead Beat
[Author's Note: I was going to write something big here, but after read the last 50 odd pages this was all I could come up with]
This is Dead Beat, the seventh book in the Dresden Files.
In it, Harry Dresden rides a zombie tyrannosaures rex named Sue.
He rides a zombie tyrannosaures rex.
This is the greatest book ever written.
Now that that is out of the way, here's the real review.
You already know what monsters Harry fought in the last books, so here's what we got in Dead Beat: Zombies and necromancers. And let me say finally, because I've been wanting zombies from book one, and at long last he's blasting some undead. Fantastic.
At any rate, if you thought Summer Knight bumped off all the main characters for a "Harry only" adventure, this one does it even better. Murphy, the cop who often works with Harry, is on vacation. So Harry's alone, living with Thomas (the white court vampire who is crashing at his house) and his now huge dog Mouse, who was a puppy in the last book (yes, that puppy).
At any rate, things pick up quick when the black court vampire we thought was dead in the last book is (SURPRISE!) not actually dead. And she's blackmailing Harry with Murphy's reputation. She wants him to find some book, which he knows nothing about, and give it to her.
Turns out, the book is like the modern version of the Necronomicon, and like five other necromancers who just so happen to be in town also want it. Crap just got real.
Since Butcher decided to dump all the characters except Thomas and Harry (and Thomas does next to nothing the entire book, despite revelations regarding him in Blood Rites), we get a new character: Butters, the mortician. I don't know why Butcher picked that name for him. Mostly because: 1. Most people who read his books are nerds and 2. Most nerds watch South Park. Butters is a friend of the kids in south park, is sort of a goody-two shoes and a coward. Surprise! Butters in Dresden Files is the exact same. Of course, he goes through the usual transformation of "cowering in fright" at the beginning to "sort of growing a pair" at the end of the book, which is both predictable and stupid, because Butters is just a waste of space. Maybe some people find him endearing. I don't.
Which is where Dead Beat shows its main problem: It starts off so freaking slowly. The first half of the book (or even first two thirds) just seems to drag on and on. There is stuff happening, Harry is facing lots of problems (including one that emerged way back at the end of Death Masks, which I'm finally glad to see addressed), so it technically should be entertaining. But, for some reason, the novel flows thicker than molasses. Unlike the last few books, which I've had problems finding stopping places, I found it hard to come back to this one. Not for lack of revelation, character development, or whatever...it was just a bad idea to dump all the other characters and have stupid Butters as his only sidekick. At least Mouse (the dog) is somewhat interesting.
Luckily, despite the novel being slow (which is too bad, because it has zombies and the premise is actually pretty rad), it makes up for it in the last third. And no, I'm not just referring to the zombie t-rex, though that was a highlight. Tons of fantastic things involving the Wardens (basically the White Council's hit squad and enforcers) show up, tying the war with the Red Court back into this book, and making it much more personal than you'd believe. My only problem with the Wardens is Morgan, a Warden who was watching Harry in Storm Front, and basically doesn't like him at all. His character is so amazingly two-dimensional it's frustrating: no matter what the situation he won't believe Harry. It doesn't matter if Harry proves himself right a thousand times, Morgan will still be stupidly bull-headed. I really hate that character, truth be told. He is like all the adults in the Series of Unfortunate Events books: obnoxious and I want to punch them. Except in Series of Unfortunate Events did it on purpose: to be funny. This just frustrates me.
Butcher's humor works and kept me going, and it really hits full throttle at the end of the book. The issue is just with the first part...it just drags (for the reasons above). Other than that, the premise is solid, the prose is reasonably good, and there are things that happen to the "overarching" plot of Harry's life that I'm certain will have both good and bad consequences in the future.
Oh, and did I mention he rides a zombie tyrannosaures rex?