Today I Read…Fool Moon

Fool MoonToday I read Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, the second book in The Dresden Files. I’ve previously reviewed the first book Storm Front here.

Wizard Harry Dresden’s rent payment is late again, a student of his is asking uncomfortable questions about very powerful, very dangerous magic, and werewolves are killing people, most notably the bodyguard of Chicago’s most powerful mobster Gentleman Johnny Marcone. Great. Dresden knew it was safer to be a cat person.

Now he has to figure out how to turn Marcone’s (admittedly very generous) job offer down–after all, a wizard who consults for the police can’t really work for a mobster too. Except he might have a little trouble getting the cops to pay his bill after getting arrested for murder. And not stopping a werewolf from tearing apart the police station, and several police officers. And escaping from custody with the help of yet more werewolves, albeit a more friendly variety.

Seriously, is everyone a werewolf except Dresden?

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I know that one of the later books in the series is called White Night,  but Harry Dresden definitely has White Knight Syndrome–something that he really needs to learn to control. He can’t protect everyone, and his chivalrous efforts towards women in particular are neither wanted nor effective. Kim dies because Dresden tries to protect her by not telling her everything, and Murphy and many other police officers get hurt because he tries to handle everything himself. As a feminist, I want to smack him upside the head a little. Fortunately, he starts relying on his friends a little more in the following books, so I guess you can teach an old wizard new tricks.

I’d put a slightly higher rating on this one than the previous book due to the bloodier murders–werewolves are not the tidiest eaters. There are also a LOT of them, considering that Dresden has never met a werewolf until this case. Butcher invents several varieties, and then has examples of each one. Good werewolves, bad werewolves, in control friendly werewolves, werewolves who start out with good intentions and then lose control and start murdering people, people who choose to be werewolves, people who are cursed to be werewolves, lone werewolves, werewolves in a pack…it’s practically a werewolf documentary. Still, it’s only the second book in the series, so Butcher is still worldbuilding.

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I sat back down, frustrated. Dammit. Kim was one of several people I had coached through the difficult period surrounding the discovery of their innate magical talents. It made me feel like crap to withhold information from her, but she had been playing with fire. I couldn’t let her do that. It was my responsibility to help protect her from such things, until she knew enough to realize how dangerous they were.
To say nothing of what the White Council would think of a nonwizard toying with major summoning circles. The White Council didn’t take chances with things like that. They just acted, decisively, and they weren’t always particular about people’s lives and safety when they did it.
I had done the right thing. Keeping that kind of information out of Kim’s hands had been the right decision. I had been protecting her from danger she didn’t, couldn’t, fully appreciate.
I had done the right thing—even if she had trusted me to provide answers for her, as I had in the past, when teaching her to contain and control her modest magical talents. Even if she had trusted me to show her the answers she needed, to be her guide through the darkness.
I’d done the right thing.
Dammit.
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I closed my hands around the keys. “Just sit down and relax for a while, Murph. We need to talk.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Harry,” she said.
“This is the thanks I get for saving your life. Twice, now. You’re going to hold out on me.”
“You should know how it works,” she said, scowling. But she settled back in her seat and looked out the windshield of the car. We could see the police, forensics, and the FBI suits moving back and forth inside the building. We were both quiet for a long time.
The funny thing was that the problems between Murphy and me came from the same source as the problems with Kim Delaney earlier tonight. Murphy had needed to know something to pursue an investigation. I could have given her the information—but it would have put her in danger to do so. I’d refused to say anything, and when I’d pursued the trail by myself all the way to its end, there had been some burning buildings and a corpse or two. There wasn’t enough evidence to bring any charges against me, and the killer we’d been after had been dealt with. But Murphy hadn’t ever really forgiven me for cutting her out of the loop.
In the intervening months, she’d called me in for work several times, and I’d given the best service I could. But it had been cool between us. Professional. Maybe it was time to try to bridge that gap again.
“Look, Murph,” I said. “We’ve never really talked about what happened, last spring.”
“We didn’t talk about it while it was happening,” she said, her tone crisp as autumn leaves. “Why should we start now? That was last spring. It’s October.”
“Give me a break, Murphy. I wanted to tell you more, but I couldn’t.”
“Let me guess. Cat had your tongue?” she said sweetly.
“You know I wasn’t one of the bad guys. You have to know that by now. Hell’s bells, I risked my neck to save you.”
Murphy shook her head, staring straight forward. “That’s not the point.”
“No? Then what is?”
“The point, Dresden, is that you lied to me. You refused to give me information that I needed to do my job. When I bring you in on one of my investigations, I am trusting you. I don’t just go around trusting people. Never have.” She took a grip on the steering wheel, her knuckles whitening. “Less than ever, now.”
I winced. That stung. What’s worse, she was in the right. “Some of what I knew . . . It was dangerous, Murph. It could have gotten you killed.”
Her blue eyes fixed on me with a glare that made me lean back against the car door. “I am not your daughter, Dresden,” she said, in a very soft, calm voice. “I am not some porcelain doll on a shelf. I’m a police officer. I catch the bad guys and I put their asses away, and if it comes down to it, I take a bullet so that some poor housewife or CPA doesn’t have to.” She got her gun out of its shoulder holster, checked the ammo and the safety, and replaced it. “I don’t need your protection.”
“Murphy, wait,” I said hastily. “I didn’t do it to piss you off. I’m your friend. Always have been.”
She looked away from me as an officer with a flashlight walked past the car, shining the light about on the ground as he looked for exterior evidence. “You were my friend, Dresden. Now . . .” Murphy shook her head once and set her jaw. “Now, I don’t know.”
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We went down what looked like a servant’s narrow spiral staircase, down into the basement. She led me to the back of a storage room and pushed open a heavy, steel door there that opened onto a small, stark chamber, all of concrete, with no other exits. In the center of the chamber was another three-ring summoning circle, but this one’s symbols had been made from silver and set into the concrete of the floor. Short bars of what looked like a mixture of silver and obsidian were interspersed around the second circle, creating what would, if the circle was functional, be a very formidable barrier.
But the symbols had been marred, torn, broken. Several from the critical inner ring had been pried up from the floor and were simply missing. Some of the bars had been broken. The circle, as it was, was nonfunctional and worthless—but whole, it would have served to contain Harley MacFinn when he shifted into his beast form. The room was a prison he had created for himself, something to contain the fury of the beast inside of him.
But someone had intentionally marred the circle, made the prison useless.
And I abruptly understood Kim Delaney’s request. She had to have known Harley MacFinn, maybe through her environmental activism. She must have learned of his curse, and wanted to help him. When I had refused to help her, she had attempted to re-create the greater summoning circle upstairs in the bedroom, to hold in MacFinn once the moon rose. As I had warned her would happen, she had failed. She hadn’t had the knowledge necessary to understand how such a construct would function, and consequently, she hadn’t been able to make it work.
MacFinn had killed her. Kim was dead because I had refused to share my knowledge with her, because I hadn’t given her my help. I had been so secure in my knowledge and wisdom; withholding such secrets from her had been the action of a concerned and reasoned adult speaking to an overeager child. I couldn’t believe my own arrogance, the utter confidence with which I had condemned her to death.
I started to shake, harder, too many things pressing against my head, my heart. I could feel the pressure, somewhere inside of me, that switch on the inside of my head quivering, getting ready to flick back beneath a tide of raging anger, fury, regret, self-hatred. I took deep breaths and closed my eyes, trying not to let it happen.
I opened my eyes and looked up at Murphy. God, I needed to talk to her. I needed a friend. I needed someone to listen, to tell me it would be all right whether it was the truth or not. I needed someone to let me unload on them, to keep me from flying apart.
She regarded me with cold, angry eyes.
“Karrin,” I whispered.
She drew from her pocket a crumpled piece of paper. She unfolded it, and held it up to me, so that I could see Kim Delaney’s graceful handwriting, the sketch of the summoning circle that she had brought to me in McAnally’s. The sketch I had refused to tell Kim about. The sketch I had crumpled into a little ball and tossed on the floor, and which Murphy had picked up, absently, just to get the trash out of people’s way.
And I realized why there was so much anger in Murphy’s eyes.
I stared at the sketch. “Karrin,” I began again. “Stars above, you’ve got to listen to me.” I took the sketch from her hands, my fingers trembling.
“Harry,” she said, in a calm tone. “You lyingbastard,” and on the word she drove her fist into my stomach, hard, doubling me over. The motion put my head within easy reach, and her fist took me across the jaw in a right cross that sent me to the floor like a lump of wet pasta, stars dancing in my vision.
I was only dimly aware of her taking the sketch back from me. She twisted my arms painfully behind my back, and snapped her handcuffs around my wrists. “You promised me,” she said, her voice furious. “You promised. No secrets. You lied to me all along. You played me like a sucker the entire while. Goddammit, Dresden, you’re involved in this and people are dying.”
“Murph,” I mumbled. “Wait.”
She grabbed my hair, jerked my head back, and slammed me across the jaw again, near-berserk anger lending her strength. My head swam, and blackness closed over my vision for several seconds.
“No more talking. No more lies,” I heard her say, and she dragged me to my feet, shoved my face and chest against a wall, and began searching me for weapons. “No more people torn up like meat on a block. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
She took my blasting rod. My shield bracelet. The energy ring. Even my lump of chalk. Her voice went on, hard, cold, and professional, letting me know my rights.
I closed my eyes and leaned against the stone wall. Next to my head, it was the softest thing in the room. I didn’t try to fight or to explain.
What was the point?
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2 thoughts on “Today I Read…Fool Moon

  1. Pingback: Today I Read…Grave Peril | wadingthroughbooks

  2. Pingback: Today I Read…Summer Knight | wadingthroughbooks

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