Death Masks (novel)
Author(s) Jim Butcher Cover artist Lee MacLeod Country United States Language English Series The Dresden Files Genre(s) Fantasy novel Publisher New American Library Publication date August 5, 2003 Media type Print (Paperback) (Future Hardcover) Pages 374 pp (first edition, paperback) ISBN ISBN 0-451-45940-7 (first edition, paperback) (Future Hardcover 0-451-46294-7) OCLC Number 52730816 LC Classification CPB Box no. 2127 vol. 3 Preceded by Summer Knight Followed by Blood Rites
Death Masks is a 2003 novel by science fiction and fantasy author Jim Butcher. It is the fifth novel in The Dresden Files, his first published series that follows the character of Harry Dresden, professional wizard.
It’s late February in Chicago – about eight months after the events in Summer Knight. Harry Dresden is taping The Larry Fowler Show. This is his second time on the show as Chicago’s only consulting wizard. Dresden is broke and the producer is paying double his usual fee. Strangely, each of Larry’s guests is on the show to meet Dresden. Mortimer Lindquist, a local spiritualist tells Harry his former lover Susan is alive in the city. Father Vincent, a Vatican priest, hires Dresden to recover the stolen Shroud of Turin. And, São Paulo University Professor Ortega, a Red Vampire Duke, wants to kill him to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court.
Susan contacts Dresden, but is sidelined by Murphy who shows Dresden a corpse who apparently died of every disease known to man, and is hired to investigate. Outside, Dresden is attacked by the Denarian Ursiel, a fallen angel attached to a mortal host. Michael Carpenter and two other Knights of the Cross, Shiro and Sanya, rescue him and ask him to drop his case, but Dresden refuses.
In his Lab, Dresden consults an oracle spirit. He learns the knights received an angelic prophecy: if Dresden is involved, he will die. However, they did not receive the whole prophecy, which states that if Dresden is not involved, all the Knights will die, as will everyone in the city of Chicago.
The Archive, a little girl containing the sum of humanity's written knowledge, and her bodyguard Kincaid, arrive to make the arrangements for Ortega’s duel. A neutral mediator selected by the White Council, she is the guarantor that the duel is conducted by the Accords. Dresden decides that she needs a normal name, so he shortens her name to Ivy.
Later, Dresden tracks the Shroud to a boat and is captured and handcuffed by the thieves while trying to recover it. Deirdre, another Denarian, attacks the boat and kills one of the thieves. Dresden fools the Denarian into taking a decoy safe that does not contain the Shroud and leaving. To save her life, the surviving thief, Anna Valmont, steals Dresden’s black leather duster and flees with the Shroud. Valmont returns a short time later to un-cuff Dresden and he is able to escape.
Since Michael is out of town, Shiro volunteers to be Dresden’s second in the duel with Ortega, whose second is Thomas Raith. They meet at McAnally’s Tavern to settle the details of the duel: the weapon is "willpower", at sundown the next day, at Wrigley Field.
Susan is waiting outside McAnally’s with a tux and a limo. She has tickets to a high society art sales charity event run by Johnny Marcone, where the Shroud will likely be sold, and which Susan is covering as a last favor. Marcone attempts to evict them, but they evade capture and locate Anna. The sale is interrupted by the Denarians, who seize the Shroud and kidnap Dresden.
Nicodemus, leader of the Denarians, father of the other Denarian Deirdre, asks if Harry will become the Denarian Lasciel. Dresden refuses. Before Nicodemus can kill him, Shiro arrives and trades himself for Dresden for 24 hours. Dresden is almost re-captured, but Susan fights Deirdre to a standstill and this allows him to escape. Susan and Dresden are pursued back to Dresden's apartment, where he activates the powerful defenses. However, this means Susan cannot leave until dawn. She is nearly driven mad by the scent of the blood, dripping from his wounds. To save his life, Dresden magically binds Susan and has sex with her in order to quell her hunger. Apparently this works because of the strong emotional bond between. He asks her about this Fellowship. The Fellowship of St. Giles is an organization of half-turned humans. They helped Susan understand and control her new, semi-vampiric nature; and now, she’s helping them exterminate Red Court vampires in South America. Martin is her Fellowship mentor, not her boyfriend. Her commitment to The Fellowship is the reason she is abandoning her old life in Chicago.
In the morning, Susan and Harry leave the boarding house and seek out the Knights. They discover that Father Forthill has an Eye of Horus tattoo similar to the one on the unidentified corpse in the morgue, which he and Vincent received. Harry and the knights defeat Saluriel and Harry forces him to reveal that Nicodemus’ plan is to create a deadly plague curse, powered by the Shroud. The spell will be cast that evening at the airport. As an international travel hub, O'Hare Airport is an excellent place to disseminate their plague.
With Susan as his new second, Dresden heads to Wrigley Field to fight his duel with Ortega. The Archive brings out a piece of mordite, a stone of anti-life. It is enchanted to move by willpower, the chosen duelling weapon. If it touches either duellist, or either camp cheats, they die. Being overpowered, Ortega draws a weapon but is shot. A swarm of Red Court vampires surge onto the ball field, attacking everyone. The Archive wills the mordite through the remaining vampires, instantly incinerating them. The Archive asks Kincaid who cheated first. Kincaid said he didn’t see it, but that Dresden was winning when the shots were fired. Dresden wins the duel by default.
Dresden races to the airport with the Knights to save Shiro and stop the plague curse, finding him severely tortured. Shiro tells Dresden to take Fidelacchius and trust his heart to know who to give it to. Still talking and dying, Shiro says Nicodemus is going to St. Louis by train. But the plague can be stopped, if he loses the Shroud, before expiring.
Dresden enlists the aid of Marcone to catch up to the St. Louis train. Dresden, Marcone, and the Knights battle the Denarians to retrieve the Shroud. Dresden strangles Nicodemus with a noose worn as a necktie, which was the same one used to hang Judas and protects the wearer from all harm, save itself. Dresden and Michael almost die while escaping from the train, but Marcone rescues them.
Dresden recuperates in Michael’s home. He receives a two-week old letter from Shiro. He had been diagnosed with cancer and came to Chicago knowing he would sacrifice himself to save Dresden. This news comforts Michael and Sanya, making Shiro’s actions into the deliberate acts of a courageous man.
The next day, Ebenezar calls and tells Dresden to watch the news. In a freak accident, an old Soviet satellite, Kosmos 5, crashed into Casaverde, Honduras -- Ortega’s secret fortress. There are no survivors. Dresden realizes that McCoy killed Ortega and his warriors in a sneak attack.
Dresden trails Marcone to a secluded, rural hospital. He discovers that Marcone had the Shroud stolen to cure a comatose girl. Dresden tells Marcone it will take three days to see if the Shroud will heal the girl. Then, the Shroud must be returned to the Church. Marcone agrees.
After the Shroud is anonymously returned to Father Forthill at St Mary’s, Dresden goes to Michael’s house for Sanya’s bon voyage barbecue. Nicodemius drives by, tossing a coin into the yard. Michael’s youngest son Harry is about to pick it up, when Dresden snatches it just in time to prevent the child from becoming a Denarian, which he rushes home to bury in his basement lab.
Plot points introduced
- Denarians: The Denarians are unions of a human host and a Fallen Angel. There are thirty Fallen, each bound to a tarnished silver Roman denarius which bears its respective Fallen's sigil; the thirty denarii represent the thirty pieces of silver paid to the apostle Judas to betray Jesus, and may possibly be those very coins.
- Fellowship of Saint Giles: The Fellowship of St. Giles (named for the patron saint of lepers and other Outcasts) is made up of people who are half-human and more specifically those who have been infected by Red Court vampires but have yet to drink the lifeblood of another human to complete their transformation. The Fellowship helps its members control their urges, support each other, and fight the vampires who infected them.
- Nicodemus says the war between the Knights of the Cross and The Denarians is 20 centuries old (page 352).
- This book takes place "a few years" after 1997, when the Shroud was nearly destroyed in a mysterious fire (page 28).
List of characters
- Harry Dresden: The protagonist and a professional wizard.
- Lieutenant Karrin Murphy: Director of Special Investigations.
- Susan Rodriguez: A member of the Fellowship. A former reporter at the Midwester Arcane, and Dresden's ex-girlfriend.
- Mister: Dresden's 30+ pound house cat.
- Bob: An intelligent air spirit who resides inside a skull in Dresden's sub-basement laboratory.
- Gentleman Johnny Marcone: The crime lord of Chicago.
- Hendricks: One of Gentleman Johnny Marcone’s bodyguards.
- Mac: The owner-operator of McAnally's tavern, which is “Accorded Neutral Ground.”
- Michael Carpenter: A carpenter, and a Knight of the Cross, who wields the sword Amoracchius.
- Warden Donald Morgan: A warden, a law enforcement officer for the White Council.
- Charity Carpenter: Michael's wife.
- Father Forthill: A priest at Saint. Mary of the Angels church; he provides a safe house for the Knights of the Cross.
- Mortimer Lindquist: He sees dead people and communicates with them.
- Thomas Raith: A White Court vampire and the least favored child of the White King.
- Don Paolo Ortega: A duke of the Red Court vampires.
- Ebenezar McCoy: Dresden’s mentor; a member of the White Council’s Senior Council.
Characters introduced in this novel
- Dr. Waldo Butters: Night shift coroner (medical examiner) at the Cook County morgue (Forensic Institute). He tips off Dresden and Murphy when he gets odd causes of death or the corpses of paranormal creatures. In later books he provides off-the-books medical aid, when going to a hospital could be dangerous or awkward.
- Shiro Yoshimo: A Knight of the Cross, who bears the sword Fidelacchius; he is killed by Nicodemus. He became a baptist due to a misunderstanding at an Elvis Presley concert.
- Sanya: A Knight of the Cross, who bears the sword Esperacchius. A Russian, a former Denarian, and an agnostic even though the Archangel Michael gave him his sword.
- Molly Carpenter: Michael and Charity's daughter and eldest child.
- The Archive: A young girl who has had the sum of all human knowledge passed down to her along the maternal line. Dresden nicknamed her "Ivy," because she has no given name.
- Jared Kincaid: The Archive’s bodyguard and driver.
- Nicodemus: possessed by the demon Anduriel, and leader of the Denarians.
- The Denarians: The 30 fallen angels who reside in Judas Iscariot’s 30 denarii of silver.
- The Fellowship of St. Giles: The Fellowship of St. Giles (named for the patron saint of lepers and similar Outcasts) is made up of people who are half-human and more specifically those who have been infected by Red Court vampires, but have yet to drink the lifeblood of another human to complete their transformation.
- Lasciel: A Denarian, the Temptress.
Death Masks in other media
- Death Masks has been recorded as an audio book CD, narrated by James Marsters.
- This book is available as a Kindle book.
- A Hardcover Version set for release on November 03, 2009.
Referring to Susan, Harry narrates, "We'd gotten involved, and on our first date she wound up lying naked on the ground in a thunderstorm while lightning cooked a toadlike demon to gooey bits." In the book, however, Harry is naked in the aforementioned scene, while Susan is dressed in an evening gown.
Harry mentioned having lost his gun in the Fae war during Summer Knight, however, in the end of Summer Knight, his gun, blasting rod, and staff were all present and cleaned by the brownies.
Rudolph had a drastic personality change. Going from "If you don't help save Murphy, I'll kill you myself" to hating Murphy and SI as a whole.
- The first four chapters of the book are found on the author's official website.
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