Brief Cases is a just-published anthology of short stories by Jim Butcher in his Dresden Files universe. This is the second such collection; the first, Side Jobs, was published in…2010…how long have I been *reading* this series?! Well, anyway, obviously Butcher has produced more short stories in the intervening years, which are all, to date, collected in Brief Cases.
When it came out, Side Jobs was eagerly snatched off the shelves because it contained a short story set forty-five minutes after the cliffhanging, earth-shaking, nerd-rage-inducing end of book 13. Brief Cases doesn’t have quite the same kind of hook, but it does have a story that almost fits the same bill.
Spoilers to follow.
– A Fistful of Warlocks: Warden Luccio is on the trail of necromancers–in Dodge City. Luckily, the Marshal knows his way around a gun…and around wizards.
This one’s actually kind of weak, in my opinion. It’s a little too short, and a little too flat, and Luccio’s voice is a little too remote for a believable first-person perspective. The same voice might have worked as an epistolary narrative, if Luccio was reporting to a superior (Captain McCoy?!), but as her own thoughts…it just doesn’t click. And, needless to say, Jim Butcher is no Leigh Brackett: the siege of the jailhouse is rather anticlimactic.
Rated….ehhh…3/5, simply because I noticed the faults in it.
– B is for Bigfoot: Harry Dresden is hired by (a) Bigfoot to protect his half-mortal son.
B is for Bigfoot is the first of three stories concerning Strength of a River in His Shoulders and his son, Irwin. What’s clever about this, in hindsight, is how these stories fit into the rest of the canon–how they shape Harry’s perception of parenthood…and what a father should do to protect his offspring.
– AAAA Wizardry: Warden Harry Dresden teaches a class of trainee Wardens about dealing with monsters–the most important thing to know is that you don’t know everything.
To be honest, I skimmed over this story on my way to Zoo Day and don’t have much to say about it. It’s set fairly early in the timeline.
– I Was a Teenage Bigfoot: Harry Dresden is again retained to investigate and protect Irwin Pounder against unknown threats.
This one sets up two factors that will be important to the rest of the Bigfoot cycle, and to the series as a whole–Irwin Pounder’s extreme vitality, and the St. Mark’s Academy of the Gifted and Talented. Irwin, it turns out, has inherited more than just size and hirsuitism from his father: he also has enormous life energy, way beyond a normal human’s, which allows him to heal rapidly and simply overpower diseases. So…how and why did he come down with mono? (Read the story. It’s hilarious.)
The other factor, St. Mark’s Academy, is going to be the setting for the spin-off YA novel cycle starring Maggie Dresden, for which readers around the globe are waiting impatiently.
– Curses: Harry Dresden investigates the Billy Goat Curse on the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Spoiler: It wasn’t the goat’s owner who laid the curse…
– Even Hand: Gentleman John Marcone deals with a fugitive, and a Fomor sorcerer.
Marcone is an awesome character, and this is an awesome little story. One of my favorite things about the DF universe is that ordinary, non-superpowered humans, nevertheless have a place in it and can make themselves felt and feared if they care to. Marcone? Is Baron of Chicago and king of its underworld for a reason.
And even if he denies that he’s really human inside…we the readers get to know differently.
– Bigfoot On Campus: Harry Dresden is retained by…well, at this point you know the drill.
This story caps off the Bigfoot cycle (although I hope we see River Shoulders or Irwin, or even Connie, again someday); and more than any other single incident, models for Harry what a father can (should? maybe not) do when his child is threatened by vampires. And it’s a lesson Harry takes very, very close to heart.
“A vampire? Am…am I going to sparkle or something?”
“Oh God, no.”
– Bombshells: Molly Carpenter deals with her feelings about Harry Dresden, the Fomor invasion of Chicago, her feelings for Harry Dresden, a tricksy faerie godmother, her feelings for Harry Dresden, other members of the Justice League Chicago, her feelings for…
Yeah. I’ve never really like Molly all that much, at first because she was too immature and short-sighted (you know…just like the rest of the White Council sees Harry); and then lately because too much of who she is, as a person, revolves around Harry Dresden and her feelings for him. And she could be so much more interesting than that.
This is still a quite good story, and I enjoyed a glimpse at Justine and Andi, who don’t get a lot of screentime on their own.
– Cold Case: Molly Carpenter deals with her new job as Winter Lady and the feelings that go with it.
As I said, I don’t like Molly all that much–and I’m not entirely sure that the new Winterized version of her is going to be an improvement. That said, this is also an excellent story, ending as it does with a twisted, horrifying, absolute tragedy.
– Jury Duty: Harry Dresden, recently returned to the land of the living, deals with what it states in the title. The twist: the White Court…and John Marcone…are involved.
Following the heavy going of Changes, Ghost Story, and Cold Days, Butcher seems to be consciously backing off the grimdarkness and writing careful, simple, deliberately upbeat stories. He’s such a practiced author now that he can do this, while still keeping the drama, depth, and satisfaction levels high. This is why we had parkour all over our Skin Game, Harry and Murphy almost getting to be happy, and way, way less angst and gloom. People are tired of the frenzy, and he wants to reset everyone and calm them down, before hitting us with the whammy in Peace Talks.
This story is no different. It’s simple, straightforward, and deliberately wholesome from beginning to end.
Best moment: Harry and Will Borden are sitting stakeout for several hours. How are a man and a dog going to remain inconspicuous on a back street…oh. Hehhh.
– Day One: Waldo Butters, Knight of the Cross, faces his first foe.
“Knights of the Cross aren’t afraid of monsters [….] Monsters are afraid of you. Act like it. Commit to it, hard. And have faith.”
– Zoo Day: A three-part story describes Harry, Maggie, and Mouse Dresden’s first time out as a family….dealing with the threats that they percieve, and only they can deal with.
Threats? Harry senses something that escapes the notice of other adults: black magic from a tainted warlock. Maggie deals with a pack of creeps–children infected by fear-devouring spirits that cannot be percieved by adults. And Mouse finds that his long-lost sibling has come to Chicago, corrupted and darkened a new wizard’s power, unleashed a trio of nasty demon-constructs, and roused up a pack of creeps to kill Maggie Dresden…
10/10. Buy this book….even if you had the opportunity to pirate it.