Fool Moon by Jim Butcher is the second of the Dresden Files. In this novel we follow Harry Dresden as he becomes embroiled in a mystery involving werewolves, and comes face to face again with the Gentleman Johnny Marcone. "Business has been slow lately for Harry Dresden. Okay, business has been dead. Not undead - just dead. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work - magical or mundane. Just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon..."
This book feels almost as though it was written by two different people. The first half of Fool Moon was written by the same person who wrote Storm Front - generic urban fantasy, with an intriguing central character and some entertaining magical rules and creatures filling the pages. A page turner that I enjoyed but found a mite disposable. Halfway through Fool Moon this other writer took over - and I *really* love his work. I found myself snorting with laughter at some of the startling humour in truly desperate situations. I was chilled by the monstrous form of the loup-garou, and its casual ability to tear apart hordes of people intent on destroying it. I was warmed by the oddball relationships between Harry and those who surround him. By the end of this book - yes, you can count me a Dresden fan.
It still had its faults, but these were more clumsy plotting or deus ex machina in nature - for example, the fact that Bob explained the existence of four different types of werewolves, and we happened to encounter every single one of them over the course of the book.
Butcher also doesn't have complete faith in his readers yet, since a lot of the characters and concepts were re-introduced all over again in this second book after encountering them in Storm Front. It is forgivable, since this is only the second in the series, but I have a horrible suspicion that this is habit-forming and will run into subsequent books in the Dresden sequence. If I am still being told what Murphy and Susan look like in book eight, I shall be disappointed.
With that said, apart from a frustrating desire to tell us exactly what every character looks like, Butcher's ability to produce characters that we care deeply about is second-to-none. Dresden remains a wonderfully sarcastic and irascible individual - take this quote for example: "So there I was being strangled by a ranting, half-naked madman in the middle of the woods, with a she-werewolf dangling from a rope snare somewhere nearby. My gunshot wound hurt horribly, and my jaw throbbed from where my buddy the cop had brutalized it the night before. I've had worse days."
Butcher's gentle observational humour makes the book a pleasure to read as well. I do believe that he might well be a cat owner, going by this quote: "I found him in a dumpster one day when he was a kitten and he promptly adopted me. Despite my struggles, Mister had been an understanding soul, and I eventually came to realise that I was a part of his little family, and by his gracious consent was allowed to remain in his apartment." Only someone familiar with the true fact that people belong to cats, and not vice versa, could write something like that!
Everything that made Storm Front enjoyable is present in Fool Moon, but Butcher has improved the plotting, the writing and the sense that we are reading something unique rather than yet another generic never-ending urban fantasy series. I was happy enough to read Fool Moon after trying Storm Front. Now that I've finished Fool Moon, I am ready to stampede to my bookshelves to find the third book. Butcher has created a fantastic character in the form of Harry Dresden - complicated, chauvinistic, and compelling - and I can't wait to read more of his adventures.