Dead Beat (Jim Butcher) review

Returning to my read-through of The Dresden Files before the next book gets published…

The Dresden Files aren’t horror stories, despite the trappings of vampires, zombies and the odd occasional evil spirit. They’re very firmly rooted in the Urban Fantasy tradition, drawing a lot from the hard-boiled detective stories, although with a level of world-building that most writers can only envy. However, Dead Beat, the seventh novel, goes as far towards the horror genre as the series gets. Zombie apocalypses are a bit like that.

Harry spends most of the book without his usual support crew: he’s avoiding Michael and Murphy is on holiday. Instead, he has to spend a lot of time with the polka-loving medical examiner, Waldo Butters, with a little help from Thomas. The pairing works really well, as Butters is as far from the competent side-kick that Harry normally has as you can imagine. His struggles with the revelations that Harry’s world bring to him are fascinating to read – as well as his struggles with his natural cowardice.

This book shows how well Butcher can write really big action scenes. The climax of the book contains several awe-inspiring moments, and it’s great to see Harry working on such a big scale. There will be bigger moments in Harry’s career, but this stands out as a big one.

However, it’s the character moments that make it great. Butcher does a really good job of misdirection in this book – which, upon rereading, I discovered he’d provided clues for the big reveal later on. It’s that sort of craftsmanship that elevates The Dresden Files over other series.


  1. tinkergoth

    I think Dead Beat is probably my favourite of The Dresden Files novels, with Summer Knight coming in a close second. I really love Waldo Butters, and as you said, some of the action scenes were amazing.

    That said, I haven’t read the last few books (last one I read was Turncoat, so I think I’m three behind now). I’ve heard nothing but good about them though, and they’re definitely on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • merricb

      Personally, I think the series gets better and better as it goes along. Every so often, there’s a smaller scale book, but you’ve stopped just before the biggest book in the series so far: Changes. It takes Dead Beat and turns it up to eleven!


      • tinkergoth

        Well, that’s a good push to get them bumped up on my list. I really enjoyed Turncoat, and was wondering where he’d take it from there. Glad to hear the next novel is a big one.

        I think my most disappointing novel in the series so far was probably Grave Peril. Not that it wasn’t good, it’s just that even with the big events (the prelude to war, Susan, the introduction of Thomas and Justine), it kind of felt like everything was in limbo at the end. Of course, this is quite possibly just because the novel was being used to setup pretty much everything that was to come, so it seemed like there were a lot of beginnings and no real resolution.


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