Brief Cases: Adventures of Harry Dresden and his friends

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Brief Cases by Jim ButcherBrief Cases by Jim Butcher urban fantasy book reviewsBrief Cases by Jim Butcher

Magic is well and good, but bullets are often swifter.

Brief Cases (2018) is a collection of a dozen short stories set in the world of Harry Dresden, a private investigator and talented wizard living in Chicago. Harry is the main character in most of the stories, but not all; a few other characters in Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES universe get their chance to relate their adventures in their own voices.

This is the case with one of my favorite stories, the first one, “A Fistful of Warlocks,” set in the American Old West in the late 1800s, long before Harry Dresden’s time. Anastasia Luccio is a wizard and a Warden of the White Council of Wizardry, sent by the Council to Dodge City to take a murderous warlock into custody. Anastasia is a woman with attitude:

“Charmed, Anastasia,” said the deputy. He squinted at my sidearm and said, “Webley. Lot of gun.”

 

He was not so very much taller than me. I arched an eyebrow at him and smiled. “I am a lot of woman.”

The warlock she’s been sent to apprehend turns out to be a lot more trouble, and have more friends helping him, than Anastasia anticipated. For her part, she gets some assistance from a näcken, a treacherous shapeshifting water spirit (usually in the shape of a horse) who lost a bet to her, and a particular deputy who will be familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Old West. I was tickled pink to meet him in this tale!

Another particular standout is the last novelette, Zoo Day, where the same period of time and overlapping events are related by Harry Dresden and two other characters, a young girl named Maggie (who will be familiar to readers of the series) and an enormous and magical dog ironically named Mouse. Harry, Maggie, and Mouse take a trip to the zoo one day, where several different magical threats turn up to disrupt what was supposed to be a pleasant outing. Each of these three characters offers his or her own perspective on the events of that day, building on each other’s stories. It was insightful and even touching.

“B is for Bigfoot,” “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot” and “Bigfoot on Campus” (previously printed in Working for Bigfoot, which Tim and Kat have reviewed) are the enjoyable trio of stories about the son of Bigfoot by a human woman, a six foot-four inch archeologist. Irwin, their son, is an intelligent and (understandably) physically strong young man, but has typical growing-up troubles with bullies, school teachers, and first love. Of course, there’s a magical twist to all of these problems. These stories explore some of the problems and concerns of parenting, with a Sasquatch spin.

Another particularly memorable story was “Curses,” a tale with a distinctly Chicago flavor, which relates the “true” story of the Chicago Cubs and the infamous Billy Goat Curse of 1945. Bob the Skull makes an appearance here to good effect, helping Harry analyze the long-running curse. In addition, there are a couple of stories featuring Harry’s friend Molly (one of which, “Cold Case,” is a bleak and distinctly Lovecraftian tale set in Alaska); “Day One,” a story about Waldo Butters and his first outing as a Knight; and “Even Hand,” from the point of view of Gentleman Johnnie Marcone, a crime lord with ties to the magical underworld.

These twelve stories in Brief Cases are set at various points in the DRESDEN FILES series and, fair warning, there are some significant spoilers relating to things that happen to some key characters in some of the later books of the series. It’s also helpful to be at least somewhat familiar with the series before launching into reading these stories. I’m somewhat a newbie to Harry Dresden: so far I’ve read only the first and fourth books in the series, but that was enough to anchor me for these stories.

Though these stories are fairly light action and mystery fantasy tales, there are deeper themes running through them. Butcher touches on some of these themes in his introductions to each story.

The idea of the consequences of your actions coming back to you in the future is ingrained in the fabric of the Dresden Files ― and both your terrible choices and your more inspired ones engender consequences that will eventually come home to roost.

Other than Zoo Day, which is new, all of these stories have appeared in various previously published anthologies. Brief Cases is well worth reading for fans of the DRESDEN FILES series, but might be slightly confusing for readers who aren’t at least a little familiar with the Dresden universe and characters.

Published in June 2018. An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard. The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue—and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection. From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales. With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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One comment

  1. These all sound fun! And this is the aspect of the Dresden books that I enjoyed the most, rather than the endless battle-mage stuff, so this is probably a book for me.

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