Mr. Butcher peppers his books with engaging and believable allies and adversaries -- multi-layered, varied and believable, both as foils for Dresden and as characters in their own right."Grave Peril" is no exception in the strength of the secondary characters. Michael, the True Knight, was just a marvelous ally, part straight man, part Tower of Strength.
This third book in the series pushes a little farther on the sex and violence front. If "Storm Front" was PG or PG-13, "Grave Peril" is definately 'R'. However, Mr. Butcher has yet to go over the top; his descriptions are done with finesse, innuendo where appropriate, and evocative language that is never crass.
I do recommend this series: part Film Noir Private Eye, part Vampire Hunter (though much more 'Angel' than 'Buffy', right down to the flowing black coat), with maybe a little sword and sorcerer thrown in the mix. Lots of mystery and plenty of action, likable characters and a nicely textured urban fantasy world. "Grave Peril" is grittier than the first book, but evocative and with a sense of real peril and emotional jeapordy for the protagonist and his allies. A wonderful read.
Michael and Harry have been chasing down disgruntled ghosts for weeks now, and finally Harry has come to believe that this isn't just a series of coincidences. Instead, someone is deliberately stirring the ectoplasm with evil intentions. But Harry barely has time to discover this when he is visited by two vampires, who go out of their way to irritate him while delivering a formal invitation to the elevation of Bianca St. Claire to the position of Margravine of the Vampire Court. You may remember Bianca from "Fool Moon." She was the vampiress Harry managed to make a deadly enemy of in the first 15 minutes of their meeting. Harry may be slow witted, but even he knows that Bianca's plans include making Dresden au gratin.
So he refuses the invitation, right? Well, not quite. A wild series of ghostly attacks, bespelled friends, and damsels in distress ensue. Harry, a class act as usual, manages to lose Michael's magic sword, fail the damsels, and barely keep his friend's alive. It is only a matter of time before the ever-widening swath of disasters leads Harry straight to Bianca's soiree and Harry-splatting party. And does Harry get splatted? You bet. It is characteristic of this story that the question Harry gets asked most often is "What happened to you?" And these are just the highlights of the quiet part of the novel.
Jim Butcher has once again concocted a unique mix of comedy and horror, In doing so he has created an entirely new genre, which I call 'noir vaudeville.' Bad things keep happening, and the life-span of one of Harry's friends seems to be about a week, but you can't help snickering and moaning. Perhaps because Harry generally deserves everything that happens to him. But you do have to feel sorry for Michael and his wife, Harry's girlfriend Susan, and most of the Chicago police force. And don't forget poor Bob the sex-fiend in a skull, who gets a serious workout this time and no fun. Butcher ends "Grave Peril" on a 'to be continued' note, which means we can look forward to even more misadventures from the career of the most hapless wizard in the Midwest. Let's hope Harry has good medical insurance.