Last year I listened to the first Dresden Files short story collection, Side Jobs, to be able to listen to the excellent narration by James Marsters (on the recommendation of ardaigle!). Marsters is a great narrator but he fell short when it came time for Karrin Murphy’s story at the end of the book. For the next collection of short stories, Brief Cases, they brought on two female narrators, Cassandra Campbell and Julia Whelan for stories from Anastasia Luccio and Molly Carpenter’s POV. No disrespect to Marsters but this was a wise decision on someone’s part. Also smart was having Oliver Wyman narrate Waldo Butter’s story. Jim Butcher giving voice to Gentleman Johnny Marcone fell flat for me and I wished Marsters had done it instead.
While listening to Side Jobs, I realized I had read many of those stories before, but it was still fun to revisit and listen to Marsters. Every story in Brief Cases was new to me, which made it slightly more enjoyable. Having narratives from characters other than Dresden, fleshing out the world and these people, was particularly delightful.
“A Fistful of Warlocks” – Butcher was invited to write for a short story collection called Straight Outta Tombstone, which he was delighted to do but presented the problem that Dresden wasn’t alive during that time period. So he wrote “A Fistful of Warlocks” featuring Warden Anastasia Luccio teaming up with Wyatt Earp. The two have good chemistry and I would have liked to spend more time with them.
“B is for Bigfoot”, “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”, and “Bigfoot on Campus” – Having spent volumes writing about the various supernatural creatures, it occurred to Butcher that he hadn’t done much with River Shoulders, Big Foot. So across three stories he wrote about River’s half human son, Erwin, at different stages of his life. These stories give more information about River’s people and reveal Dresden’s feelings on his father figures (or lack thereof). They also give insight into how Dresden will approach parenting.
“AAAA Wizardry” – This story features Dresden teaching his tactics to young Wardens. It alternates between his recounting a case of his with the present in the classroom. This was a nice breakdown of how Dresden approaches problems. It also served as a warning to the Wardens that the best laid plans can be ruined if one incorrectly perceives what the problem is.
“Curses” – An amusing story about Dresden being hired by the Chicago Cubs baseball team to investigate if the “Curse of the Billy Goat” is an actual curse. The fun bit with this story is that it is based on an actual event which happened in 1945 when a man and his goat were asked to leave game 4 of the World Series and he declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. The Cubs lost and didn’t win a World Series until 2016. Of course, since this is the Dresden Files, it is an actual curse.
“Even Hand” – Has Johnny Marcone facing off against a powerful Fomor opponent. It showcases the deep level of thinking Marcone puts into all his actions and the one line he won’t cross. It also reveals one of his strategies should Marcone ever have to take out Dresden.
“Bombshells” – Molly Carpenter has been trying to fill Dresden’s shoes since his death, and he is a hard act to follow. For the past year she has been instructed by the Leanansidhe (Dresden’s literal fairy godmother who Molly refers to as Auntie Lea, and member of the vicious Winter Court of Fae). Lea’s teachings have honed Molly’s abilities as a mage and fighter. When Molly learns that Dresden’s half-brother Thomas Wraith has been abducted by Svartalves, she must rescue him. To do so she teams up with Justine, and Andi (a werewolf) and uses all the skills she has been sharpening.
“Cold Case” – Molly is now the Lady of Winter and Mab is sending her out on a first assignment, to receive overdue tribute from the Miksani of the Winter Court. Along the way she teams up with Warden Ramirez, who is also in town investigating supernatural rumors. This story teaches Molly some ruthless lessons, preparing her for what it really means to be part of the Winter Court. It also brings home the point of the importance of the Winter Court in the grand scheme of things.
“Jury Duty” – Dresden has officially come back from the dead and a very short time later been served with jury duty. What would seem to be an open and shut case has Dresden suspecting supernatural forces were involved. Hating to see an innocent man be put away, Dresden investigates what really happened.
“First Day” – Waldo Butter’s is now a Knight of the Cross, with a sword that manifests as a lightsaber. This one had me laughing out loud a couple of times. Starting with Butter’s seeing a blinking, glowing exclamation mark above a homeless man’s head, indicating this was a person who needed his help (similar to how NPCs with missions are indicated in video games). It turns out the Almighty speaks to the knights in ways special to each of them. This is the story of Butter’s first mission.
“Zoo Day” – This was written especially for Brief Cases and tells of the first father daughter outing between Dresden and Maggie. This may be my favorite of the collection. The same day is told from Dresden, then Maggie, and lastly Mouse’s (the giant temple guardian Fu dog Dresden rescued as a puppy, now protector and service dog to Maggie) perspectives. Each of them has their own encounters with the supernatural and have to deal with them on their own. Overall, it is a touching story of love, discovery of each other, and family bonding.
While necessary or required might be a bit of an over statement, I do highly recommend reading the Dresden short stories if you have read the novels.
Ponyo giving her best impression of a serene, temple guardian Fu dog as she monitors the front door.