Jim Butcher,
Proven Guilty
(Roc, 2006)

Proven Guilty is the eighth installment in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, the adventures of Harry Dresden, Chicago's only wizard for hire. As is usual with Harry, the story opens with a bad situation that only gets worse.

The war between the White Council of Wizards and the vampires' Red Court is going badly for the wizards. Looked-for help from the Courts of Faerie has not been forthcoming, and the wizards are reeling from a series of successful surprise attacks on their own forces and those of their allies. Harry finds himself part of a secret cabal within the White Council, trying to unmask a traitor high up in the White Council's hierarchy. He is informed by Ebenezar McCoy, his one-time mentor and a senior wizard, that the Red Court has information that is too good to be the result of chance, or even effective spies. Ebenezar also asks him to see if he can do anything about the inaction of the Faerie Courts, and also delivers a note from the Gatekeeper, one of the more mysterious members of the Senior Council, warning him that someone in Chicago is practicing black magic. While trying to figure out what to do about all these problems, he gets a call from Molly Carpenter, daughter of Michael, his friend and a Knight of the Sword, asking him to bail her out of jail.

And then everything really goes to pot.

It's a good read, but I do have a couple of objections, mostly in the area of character. As cheeky and confrontational as Harry is, I find it hard to believe that he puts up with Charity Carpenter, Michael's wife, who tends to blame Harry for anything and everything that happens to her family. In spite of the all the justifications Harry gives for her behavior, Charity is really not much more than a spoiled, self-centered bitch. The remarkable thing is that no one calls her down for her behavior, which pretty much stretches the bounds of credibility to the breaking point. I, at least, felt early on that someone should just slap her silly and tell her to grow up.

Aside from that, I have few reservations about recommending Proven Guilty. There is, of course, the almost obligatory blunder on Chicago geography. In this case, just let me say that, among American cities with waterfronts, Chicago is notable for the fact that its lakeshore is devoted to parks, beaches and marinas, not wharves and warehouses. (This is starting to seem like a game Butcher is playing with his Chicago readers.)

Butcher continues to build on the series to date with the result that this episode is slightly richer than those that came before. It's a good, absorbing adventure, maybe not a heart-stopper, but certainly a page-turner, full of twists and turns, double-dealings (not always a bad thing) and a rich context built from many areas of folklore and fairy tale. The best part is, we're assured of at least one more volume -- Harry hasn't unmasked the traitor yet.

by Robert M. Tilendis
21 April 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.