Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

(8.5/10) This story should satisfy fantasy and mystery fans alike.

Harry Dresden -- urban wizard, private detective, and Chicago police consultant -- preserves the equilibrium between the human world and The Nevernever (supernatural world).  When fellow wizard and nemesis, Donald Morgan, turns up at Harry's door seriously injured he pleads for Harry to hide him from the White Council (world magic regulators). Harry is tempted to ignore this entreaty but his "bleeding heart" compels him to listen to Morgan's story. It turns out that Morgan has just escaped from prison where he awaited sentencing for the assassination of senior council member Aleron LaFortier -- one among seven of the most powerful wizards on the planet. Morgan claims he's been framed -- despite the fact that he had been found standing over the dead body with the weapon. And an investigation had revealed further damaging evidence; like several million dollars recently deposited into Morgan's bank account. Morgan asserts that the killer is among the council members and he wants Harry to find out who it is.

Harry is hesitant to get involved as his relationship with Morgan is less than stellar. "Merciless Morgan," who supports by-the-book law enforcement, had once demanded Harry's execution for violating a cardinal rule of magic. Also, because of past transgressions Harry's the least popular member on the council, whose rules he  often circumvents to do the right thing. If caught sheltering Morgan, he risks being branded an accomplice and will likely receive the same death sentence. But Harry lives in an infinite loop of compassion and he can't allow someone, even his enemy, to be unjustly persecuted so he agrees to identify and expose the turn coat

A tracking spell was cast by the White Council to locate Morgan who cast a counter spell to deter them for 48-60 hours, which is the amount of time Harry will have to find the culprit. The consequences of a treasonist among the ruling wizard council is a calamity that could result in a civil war within the supernatural realm which would eventually breach the human world they are sworn to protect.

"Turn Coat" is the 11th book in the immensely popular fantasy series which features Harry Dresden, a hard-boiled tenacious wizard with kick-ass magical power.  Like other Dresden titles, this story presents a problem in the magical realm which once solved will prevent the collision of the supernatural and natural worlds. Told in a first person narrative, it's infused with drama, humor, moral dilemmas, magic battles, and conspiracies. Harry's signature style includes liberal use of snaky quips to lambast those he deems reproachful and to deflect the seriousness of unpleasant situations. Harry's character makes this book and the series a winner. Unlike the usual alpha male hero, Harry's a beta male who falls easily for a sob story, protects the underdog, banishes evil, yet still gets his share of girls.

Some of the multi-creature cast of characters mimic other fantasy works, (like the old white haired, long bearded Merlin; you guessed it, he's a wizard). However, this flaw can be overlooked because other unique characters make the story work. An example is Harry's sidekick, Bob the Skull a spirit bound to a human skull.

If you've read previous Dresden titles you'll be glad to know that Butcher reveals more background on some of the series' more fascinating characters, like Ancient Mai, The Merlin, and Injun Joe. If you're new to the series you don't have to start with book one -- although it's probably the best option. This story stands alone and includes adequate backstory details for new readers.

This is a signature Dresden tale in which Harry risks his life and reputation to right wrongs with no regard for personal risk. He helps anyone -- usually someone undeserving -- who asks, circumvents the White Council and battles nasty otherworldly beings with a magic rune-covered quarterstaff . This story should satisfy fantasy and mystery fans alike.

A. Black

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