Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Fool Moon ch. 3-4

The_Dresden_Files_2007_Intertitle

Chapter 3

Last time: murder, guns!

This time: talking!

 I stuck my hands in my duster’s pockets, careful of the bloodstained shard of glass wrapped in my handkerchief, and turned my face into the wind, closing my eyes.

[…]

See? You aren’t dead. Dead people don’t breathe like that. You aren’t Spike, all torn to pieces on the floor. You don’t have any bullet holes in you, either. You’re alive, and Murphy’s all right, and you don’t have to look at that eyeless face anymore.

This strikes me as a particularly un-visceral way to describe someone’s reaction to nearly being involved in a fatal shooting. In fact “I turned my face to the wind, closing my eyes” probably would have sufficed on its own. At least it’s refreshing that Harry is allowed to feel sickened by the sight of the dead body instead of being MANLY STOIC MAN.

I wanted to scream, to run, to wave my arms and kick something until I felt better.

I can assure you this isn’t conjuring up the images of mental trauma that it’s supposed to be.

Murphy arrives and admits that Denton did in fact have a point in that she wasn’t supposed to be at the crime scene. I like Murphy, because she seems like an intelligent person except when the plot decrees that she isn’t.

She unlocked the doors and got in the car. I got in the passenger side, then reached out and plucked the keys from her hand as she began to start the engine

Because I suppose just asking her not to start driving yet would have been too hard.

She quirked her head at me, narrowing her eyes.

There’s that eye-narrowing thing that characters in bad fiction are always doing. I want everyone reading this to keep a track of how many times they either do this or see someone else doing it over the course of a month. The number will be close to zero.

Harry wants to discuss their strained working relationship lately, with a quick recap of what happened in the first book:

The funny thing was that the problems between Murphy and me came from the same source as the problems with Kim Delaney earlier tonight. Murphy had needed to know something to pursue an investigation. I could have given her the information-but it would have put her in danger to do so. I’d refused to say anything, and when I’d pursued the trail by myself all the way to its end, there had been some burning buildings and a corpse or two. There wasn’t enough evidence to bring any charges against me, and the killer we’d been after had been dealt with. But Murphy hadn’t ever really forgiven me for cutting her out of the loop.

Harry has this very smug arbiter-of-truth thing going on wherein he decides what people should and shouldn’t know based on what he thinks is good for them. In the case of Kim Delaney that’s arguably justified since he is her teacher in wizarding, and therefore has both a responsibility to try and ensure her safety and the authority to decide that she’s not ready to tackle wizarding subjects that might be dangerous. But Murphy isn’t his student. She is in fact a highly qualified and experienced police officers and Harry is her adviser on wizarding matters. I kind of feel like, given that dynamic, the responsible action would have been to say “I’m going to give you this info but as your wizarding consultant I urge you not to act on it or else you might get wizard-murdered”, and then recognize that as someone working an inherently dangerous job Murphy kind of has the right the decide for herself whether she’s going to risk her safety or not.

(Also if I remember correctly there was some sort of complicating factor involving the White Council getting on Harry’s case that he wouldn’t tell her about for some reason)

“I am not your daughter, Dresden,” she said, in a very soft, calm voice. “I am not some porcelain doll on a shelf. I’m a police officer. I catch the bad guys and I put their asses away, and if it comes down to it, I take a bullet so that some poor housewife or CPA doesn’t have to.” She got her gun out of its shoulder holster, checked the ammo and the safety, and replaced it. “I don’t need your protection.”

My thoughts exactly, Murph. Can I call you Murph?

That dig at Harry for treating Murphy like his daughter is extremely on the money, considering Harry has a bad tendency to do exactly that with almost every woman he meets. It’s odd that Butcher is obviously self-aware enough to notice this, but then has Harry continue to do it anyway.

Murphy wasn’t a wizard. She had almost no knowledge of the world of the supernatural, the world that the great religion of Science had been failing to banish since the Renaissance.

Oh boy!

Before I go on a very long winded digression, let me just say that I’m going to be charitable and assume this is 100% Harry Dresden speaking and 0% Jim Butcher.

With that out of the way:

Any time anyone starts prattling about the “religion of science” it always pegs them as someone who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. Usually they’re just throwing out a lazy and unimaginative Sick Burn because the scientific method and the people who use it- which are lumped together into the monolithic entity referred to as “science”- disproves or is perceived to have disproved or to be trying to disprove some pet theory of the speaker, whether that theory is religious or paranormal or pseudo-scientific in nature.

The interesting thing is that Harry Dresden lives in a world in which the supernatural does in fact exist. But he also presumably lives in a world where, like in our own, the scientific method has failed to detect it, or else the vampires and werewolves and shit would be common knowledge. This makes his statement extremely odd, because “science” can’t be attempting to “banish” that which it is unaware of; and surely if scientists have utterly failed to detect the supernatural (keep in mind that the supernatural is deliberately hiding itself in this setting) then they are completely justified in asserting that it’s not real, even though they happen to be factually wrong about that.

In fact, it occurs to me that the only way Harry’s jab would make any sense is if he lives in a world where the existence of the supernatural is actually secretly known to the scientific establishment and they’re just being meany heads by engaging in a deliberate attempt to cover it up because reasons. It further occurs to me that this is the exact same worldview held by most paranoid cranks in real life.

Make of that what you will.

She had nothing to use against some of the things she encountered, no weapon but the knowledge that I was able to give her-and last spring I had taken that weapon away from her, left her defenseless and unprepared. It must have been hell for Murphy, to daily place herself at odds with things that didn’t make any sense, things that made forensics teams just shake their heads.

This is a moment of genuine introspection by Harry, but it’s a bit weird that he’s only getting around to it now, months after the fact. As we’ll see, he has an odd habit of engaging in sudden reversals of opinion between books.

That’s what Special Investigations did. They were the team specially appointed by the mayor of Chicago to investigate all the “unusual crimes” that happened in the city.

I’m extremely curious to know what the mayor thinks is actually causing these crimes, unless he’s part of the evil science conspiracy as well.

Murphy says she’ll forgive Harry if he promises not to keep secrets this time.

“Murphy,” I said, “I can’t promise that. How can you ask me to-“

For fuck’s sake Harry, stop being such an ass-waffle and just say yes.

He eventually does, but Murphy has to use a secret cop maneuver to grab the keys off him first.

“because if we don’t, I’m going to be out of a job. And you’ll probably end up in jail.”

cliffhanger

Chapter 4

The gist of this is that because of the events of the first book someone thinks Murphy was in cahoots with a local gangster, and it’s partially Harry’s fault (just like everything else). Now city hall is breathing down her neck Internal Affairs is on her and they think Harry is involved somehow. They can’t prove anything, which is why Murphy didn’t raise a fuss about Benn almost shooting her- she doesn’t want anyone else on her case.

I nodded, frowning. The headlights were still behind us. “Just a crazy thought: Have you considered telling them the truth? That we might be dealing with a werewolf here?”

Murphy sneered. “Not a chance. They hire conservatives for jobs at the bureau.

Which is why you could just have Harry roll up and do some wizarding in front of them. Boom! Problem solved, the funds and support roll in. Again: Harry couldn’t possibly have a problem with people knowing he’s a wizard since he advertises openly in the phone book.

Murphy exposits a bit about the killings and says that two of the murders have been linked to Marcone (about whom more shortly). During this conversation a car starts following them but Harry doesn’t say anything because I guess not telling people important information is just his hobby.

Murphs drops Harry off at Wizard Pub and the car that was following them pulls into the parking lot. It cruises around a bit and then pulls out.

The driver, a striking woman with shaggy, dark brown hair, peppered with grey, did not turn to look at me as she went past.

Mysteeeeeerious.

Harry gets in his wacky car and starts to drive home, feeling guilty about Murphy.

I have what might be considered a very out-of-date and chauvinist attitude about women

Fuck me, here we go.

I like to treat women like ladies. I like to open doors for them, pay for the meal when I’m on a date, bring flowers, draw out their seat for them-all that sort of thing. I guess I could call it an attitude of chivalry, if I thought more of myself.

“I like to treat women like ladies” may be the most meaningless and yet simultaneously rife with hidden implications phrase I’ve ever heard.

Harry goes a lot more into his “chivalry” in the first book. It includes insisting on opening doors for Murphy even though she repeatedly asks him not to and gets upset when he does it. What an asshole.

Anyway, Harry decides that since Murphy is a “lady in need” he needs to heroically save her from trouble, even though he got her there in the first place.

I’m a wizard.

large

That means I have power, and power and responsibility go hand in hand

Did you seriously just write that

So, Harry picked up a bloody shard of glass at the crime scene (I’m sure the FBI will be thrilled about that), and he wants to use it to track the killer with wizarding. For some reason he didn’t tell Murphy about this earlier, and he’s now worried that Murphy will think he’s leaving her out of the loop again. In this situation, does Harry

a) Call Murphy up and explain the situation and that he can’t have that report on werewuffles for her like he said, and ask if she wants to ride shotgun

b) Be an enormous ass-muffin and just not tell her for absolutely no god damn reason whatsoever

Of course, he goes with option b because we need a contrived setup for drama.

I took out a few wizardly implements: my blasting rod

If the first book was any indication we’re going to be hearing a lot about Harry’s blasting rod over the coming chapters.

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16 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Fool Moon ch. 3-4

  1. Number27

    Butcher is trying to create a world where the supernatural is actually really easy to see, hear, touch, test, measure, etc but all the scientists in the world (except the one cool dude you meet 7ish books from now) invent elaborate justifications to explain away its existence because it doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions of reality. Butcher has, possibly, never actually met a scientist.

    Reply
  2. quorn

    It’s how Harry keeps doing it that gets me.

    I could take it as a character flaw if he was condescending and paternal to his female colleagues and then they take him to task/it blows up in his face and he reflects on it and attempts to change his behaviour. That’d be sympathetic. We’ve all struggled with bad habits of one kind or another.

    Instead he gets called out on it, and even has a moment of reflection, and then… goes on and keeps doing it.

    It’s one thing to have a flawed character helming your pulp adventure novel, it’s another to have an unrepentant shithead.

    Reply
    1. braak

      It’s worse than going on with it, though, it’s like he redoubles his commitment to it every time it happens. “Don’t like me holding the door for you, eh? Well, I’ll show you! I’ll run ahead of you so that I can hold the door every time!”

      Reply
      1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        And the things that it’s supposed to be seen as a flaw, but it’s not because Dresden is being misogynistic, but that he’s being stubborn. Which isn’t actually a flaw, because he’s stubborn about damn near everything, he just happens to be stubborn about something that annoys other characters, but we as the readers are supposed to find endearing “oh, he means well, and he’s helping them, so we can’t really hold it against him, it’s just one of those quirks we have to live with”.

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          “Stubborn” is up there with clumsy as one of those character traits writers use because they realize their protagonist doesn’t have any flaws, believe that they must have flaws, but really don’t want to give them any flaws.

          Reply
  3. riveroverrun

    I do “narrow my eyes,” but it requires a double eyebrow raise to look like the Futurama Not Sure If meme and not squinting. Authors leave out the eyebrow raise in their rush to show-not-tell their characters’ skepticism so it seems like characters are forever glancing directly at the sun.

    Reply
  4. Signatus

    Ok, done here. Laughed a lot with this post. XD

    I wonder why it is considered treating us “lady like” by making us potentially useless human beings. Maybe I’m some sort of feral type of human being, but if my boy brought me flowers, I’d probably ask him what I’m supposed to eat them with. I’d rather go to a nice, mountain site place, to stuff myself with hunt meat, walk the paths with my dogs and go horse riding, than all that is considered romantic.
    And, for goodness sake, I really, REALLY hate when men believe I can’t do things myself, and that has happened to me a lot. I’ve had strangers come up to me offering help when I was working under my car’s hood, and even after telling them I was fine, thank you, they wanted to confirm if I knew what I was doing. Really, I have two opposable thumbs and hight brain processes, I’m perfectly capable of learning AND understanding how an engine works and work on it myself.

    Anyways, something I like about this whole Harry chivalry thing is how most women regard his manners like; “geroff, freak!”, which is a pleasant change from women drooling after the manly man hero for no reason whatsoever than he’s the manly man.
    (pity I’ll have to swallow my words several books later)

    Reply
    1. Orryia

      Flowers are a very pleasant and romantic thing to have (in my opinion). What I don’t get is the reason why a woman giving flowers to a man should be considered odd.

      Reply
      1. ronanwills Post author

        Because MANLINESS GRRRR

        (In case you couldn’t tell, I have serious problems with traditional masculinity)

        Reply
  5. Signatus

    “It further occurs to me that this is the exact same worldview held by most paranoid cranks in real life.”

    I’m going to make a stop there because I absolutely loved that paragraph. As someone who has had to deal with these sort of conspiranoids, I’ve yet to find a satisfying explanation as to why every single scientist in every single part of the world would want to keep the supernatural (or aliens, or whatever) hidden. I mean, they are looking for lifeforms in outer planets and want to keep the presence of aliens in our own hidden? How stupidly illogical is that?

    Anyways, I really liked Murphy too… until later on. In the first books she was a really cool character. It is a rare occurrence to find a strong female character who doesn’t fall into the Damsel in Distress role. Murphy never really gets there, but she gets worse as books get published.
    And Harry becomes more and more of an anti hero Stu which is a pretty interesting evolution. There is a reason why I believe book series should be kept short.
    At least these arent 1000 pages bricks.

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      I knew this was going to happen to her!

      Every time Ronan says, “I like [female character X]” in these rereads, we should just start counting down the clock until the author infantalises and disempowers her.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Well, to be honest, she never gets as bad as Denna, who, I swear, as the book advances, my vision of how she looked changed. She passed from a sporty looking, rustic sort of person, to a victorian era snob with a highly elaborate hairstyle and wasp waist.

        I don’t want to go too much ahead. Murphy kind of stays the same until she befriends and trusts Harry… then there is Ghost Story which should have been called “When Women Weep”.

        Reply

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