It’s been a while since Skin Game was published, and with no release date for Peace Talks in sight, Harry Dresen fans such as myself have been feeling a little despondent. We all miss our crazy, tall, smart-aleky wizard. Thankfully, Brief Cases has come along, and while most of the stories have been published previously, some have been hard to get, making this a very welcome release for the deprived reader.
I think I’d read just over half the stories before, so I was personally covering a lot of old ground. To make re-reading a little more interesting, I decided to give the audiobook a try. I’d never listened to any of the Dresden books before, but I’d heard nothing but praise for James Marsters’s narration. And I’ve got to say, I think I’m a bit of a convert! He really is a damn good fit, especially for Harry, and I enjoyed having him as a narrator.
Not all the stories share the same narrator, and even Jim Butcher himself has a turn at narrating the story ‘Even Hand.’ And while all of them do a fine job in isolation (Ok, a special shout out to Oliver Wyman, who got Butters spot on), there were a few niggling inconsistencies across the book. One that stuck out to me was that not everyone was using the same pronunciation for Lea’s full name. I guess this was to be expected since most of the book is made up of pre-published parts, but it was still irritating. (This never happens with the internal voice in your own head!)
As for the different stories, they all vary wildly in tone. A few, such as the Bigfoot stories or ‘Bombshells’, are a bit more on the lighter side. Although, being Dresden, I wouldn’t call them flat-out jolly. Others, like ‘Cold Case’, are downright horrifying. But the three that really stood out for me are ‘Day One’ just for giving us something from Butters’ perspective; ‘Even Hand’, which gave me a renewed respect for both Marcone and Justine; and ‘Zoo Day.’
This last one was the major draw for me. Harry is finally taking Maggie out and acting as her dad! The first two parts of ‘Zoo Day’ are told from each of their perspectives, and its just wrenching to hear how both are so insecure around each other. Harry is Harry, and while he’s trying to handle fatherhood as best as he can, his brain is sometimes a jerk to him. Maggie is also worried that her dad might not like her or might find her too strange. Unsurprisingly, due to her history, she’s prone to panic attacks and getting overwhelmed in crowded places. The last time she went to the zoo, she cried because it was all too much. So she does her best to put on a brave face.
But the third perspective of the story? It Mouse! And Mouse is an absolute darling. When Maggie and Harry find themselves isolated from each other at the zoo, confronting their own personal problems, it’s Mouse who works out how those things are linked. But because Mouse is not just a good boy, but the very best boy, he’s the one who saves the day. And he manages to do so while philosophising about the flaws in human nature.
It’s Ok, apparently, if we humans have holes in our hearts. That’s why we have dogs.
Because most of the stories in this compilation are scattered across the Dresden timeline, it’s the seasoned fan who’s going to get the most out of them. But the same fans are likely the ones that have already gone out of their way to hunt these stories down and read them in previous publications. For us, it can be a bit of a pain to pay for a book we’ve almost half read. But if you’re new to listening to the audio versions like I was, I suggest you take that route and enjoy having Dresden read to you.
But for people who have only just picked up the series? This is an absolute bounty. Dig in!
Then we can all be sad and hold out for Peace Talks together.
So, it turns out Jim Butcher is an October Baby. So let’s tick off Birthday! on the bingo card.