Death Masks

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Death Masks
Death Masks.jpg
Author Jim Butcher
Cover artist Lee MacLeod
Country United States
Language English
Series The Dresden Files
Genre 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 52730816
LC Class 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.

This book is published by New American Library with the ISBN 0-451-45940-7.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

During a taping The Larry Fowler Show, Harry meets Father Vincent, a Vatican priest, who hires Dresden to recover the stolen Shroud of Turin. And, São Paulo University Professor Ortega, a Red Court Vampire noble, challenges Harry to a duel to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court. Later, Murphy hires Dresden to investigate the corpse who apparently died of every disease known to man. 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 the 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.

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. The surviving thief, Anna Valmont, steals Dresden's black leather duster and flees with the Shroud.

Susan, who has been in touch, 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. 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 and father of Deirdre, pressures Harry to join with the Denarian Lasciel or die. Dresden refuses. Before Nicodemus can kill him, Shiro arrives and trades himself for Dresden for 24 hours. Dresden is almost re-captured, but Susan, enhanced in battle from her semi-vampire status, fights Deirdre to a standstill and 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 and hers, Dresden magically binds Susan and has sex with her in order to quell her hunger. She reveals that The Fellowship of St. Giles is an organization of half-turned humans she is working with in South America.

In the morning, Susan and Harry leave the boarding house and seek out the Knights. They discover that Father Forthill has an Eye of Thoth tattoo similar to the one on the unidentified corpse in the morgue, which Forthill and Vincent received together. Harry deduces that Vincent is a phony, the Knights defeat Saluriel posing as Vincent, 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. Overpowered, Ortega draws a weapon but is shot by Martin. A swarm of Red Court vampires surge onto the ball field, attacking everyone and covering Ortega's escape. Dresden races to the airport with the Knights to save Shiro and stop the plague curse, finding him severely tortured and near death. Shiro entrusts Fidelacchius to Dresden, telling him to pass it on to the right person. Shiro reveals, dying, that Nicodemus is going to St. Louis by train to spread the plague curse, which can be stopped by taking the Shroud from Nicodemus.

Dresden enlists the aid of Marcone and Ms. Gard to catch up to the St. Louis train. Dresden, Marcone, and the Knights battle the Denarians to retrieve the Shroud. Thanks to a hint from the dying Shiro, Dresden finds Nicodemus' weakness (his noose) and takes the Shroud, cancelling the plague, but fails to kill him. 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.

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 has deliberately killed Ortega with the satellite.

Dresden trails Marcone to a secluded, rural hospital. He discovers that Marcone had the Shroud stolen hoping to cure a comatose girl. Dresden tells Marcone he can have three days to see if the Shroud will heal the girl. After that, 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. Harry rushes home to bury Lasciel's coin in his basement lab.

Introduced characters[edit]

  • 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 had become 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.
  • Ms. Gard A security consultant, helping Marcone with magical and physical security.
  • 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[edit]

  • 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 3, 2009.


  1. ^ Butcher, Jim (2003). Death masks. New York: Roc. ISBN 0-451-45940-7. 

External links[edit]