Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Book Five of The Dresden Files
Spoilers for events through Ghost Story not just this book.
At this point I was bogging down pretty bad and decided that the best way to make my way through the rest of this series was to mostly write Harry off as just a plot device and focus on the supporting cast. The straw that broke my interest in him as a character was nothing in this book, in which I liked him far more than in the last one, but finding out that Butcher has said that his goal is to make Harry suffer as much as possible. Which means that no matter how much Harry grows it will never make any difference to his fate at all.
This would be the point at which I'd walk away from the series normally. It's a good jumping off point. There isn't a cliff hanger ending, things are resolved with Susan (unless you know about Maggie), and the evil vamps are on the ropes (or at least seem to be). However, having dug around for spoilers to find out what happens later, I really wanted to be around to see how Molly develops from the kid we meet in this novel into the Winter Lady, more about Charity's past, Thomas and Harry trying to share living space, and how Maggie comes to live with the Carpenters so I stuck around. Also I NEED to see Sue on a rampage which is going to happen later in the one I'm currently reading.
Which, further along I'm starting to enjoy Harry again but it's with a sense of caution.
I did enjoy this one more than I had the last couple. I was surprised by this new Susan who actually has a working brain now and the competency to deal with the supernatural threats she's still walking into. She was WAY, WAY too much of the Emma Peel archtype to me instead of being a believable person in her own right but better Emma than 1960's era Lois Lane.
I can enjoy a character who is direct from central casting, in fact there are certain characters I'm always happy to see no matter what name they're going by at the moment. As long as the character works within the context of the story and is given some customization to make them a real person it's fine. Shiro could have wandered in from any of several shonen manga but he was my favorite of the new characters this time around. I love Emma Peel and I love characters who are her fictional successors like Marvel's Black Widow. Susan though continues to be a plot device without substance. She is there solely for Dresden's character development and I was happy that things proceed so that she leaves town and won't be a regular.
On the plus side I do like what Butcher's doing with Gentleman Johnny Marcone a lot. He's taken the stock Chicago Mob Boss and layered on complexity with every appearance. He's another one I'm sticking around to follow. It's a lot of fun to see Harry and Marcone have to work together this time and how there is this warped sort of trust between them since each has seen the other's soul. It's not that neither would betray the other but that each knows the circumstances in which the other would betray him.
Overall there were enough good bits to keep me going and I'm glad because I really enjoyed the next one.