Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he's getting more than he bargained for.
A duel with the Red Court of Vampires' champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards...
Professional hit men using Harry for target practice...
The missing Shroud of Turin...
A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified...
Not to mention the return of Harry's ex-girlfriend Susan, who's still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.
Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you're charging.
It’s late February in Chicago – about eight months after the events in Summer Knight. Harry Dresden is taping The Larry Fowler Show. This is his second time on the show as Chicago’s only consulting wizard. Dresden is broke and the producer is paying double his usual fee. Strangely, each of Larry’s guests is on the show to meet Dresden. Mortimer Lindquist, a local spiritualist tells Harry his former lover Susan Rodriguez is alive and in Peru. Father Vincent, a Vatican priest, hires Dresden to recover the stolen Shroud of Turin. And, São Paulo University Professor Ortega, a Red Vampire Duke, wants to kill him to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court.
Susan contacts Dresden, but is sidelined by Murphy who shows Dresden a corpse who apparently died of every disease known to man, and is hired to investigate. 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 Yoshimo and Sanya, rescue him and ask him to drop his 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. Dresden decides that she needs a normal name, so he shortens her name to Ivy.
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. To save her life, the surviving thief, Anna Valmont, steals Dresden’s black leather duster and flees with the Shroud. Valmont returns a short time later to un-cuff Dresden and he is able to escape.
Since Michael is out of town, Shiro volunteers to be Dresden’s second in the duel with Ortega, whose second is Thomas Raith. They meet at McAnnally’s Tavern to settle the details of the duel: the weapon is "willpower", at sundown the next day, at Wrigley Field.
Susan is waiting outside McAnnally’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, and which Susan is covering as a last favor. 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, father of the other Denarian Deirdre, asks if Harry will become the Denarian Lasciel. Dresden refuses. Before Nicodemus can kill him, Shiro arrives and trades himself for Dresden for 24 hours. Dresden is almost re-captured, but Susan fights Deirdre to a standstill and this 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, Dresden magically binds Susan and has sex with her in order to quell her hunger. Apparently this works because of the strong emotional bond between them. He asks her about this Fellowship. The Fellowship of St. Giles is an organization of half-turned humans. They helped Susan understand and control her new, semi-vampiric nature; and now, she’s helping them exterminate Red Court vampires in South America. Martin is her Fellowship mentor, not her boyfriend. Her commitment to The Fellowship is the reason she is abandoning her old life in Chicago.
In the morning, Susan and Harry leave the boarding house and seek out the Knights. They discover that Father Forthill has an Eye of Horus tattoo similar to the one on the unidentified corpse in the morgue, which he and Vincent received. Harry and the knights defeat Saluriel 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. The Archive brings out a piece of mordite, a stone of anti-life. It is enchanted to move by willpower, the chosen duelling weapon. If it touches either duellist, or either camp cheats, they die. Being overpowered, Ortega draws a weapon but is shot. A swarm of Red Court vampires surge onto the ball field, attacking everyone. The Archive wills the mordite through the remaining vampires, instantly incinerating them. The Archive asks Kincaid who cheated first. Kincaid said he didn’t see it, but that Dresden was winning when the shots were fired. Dresden wins the duel by default.
Dresden races to the airport with the Knights to save Shiro and stop the plague curse, finding him severely tortured. Shiro tells Dresden to take Fidelacchius and trust his heart to know who to give it to. Still talking and dying, Shiro says Nicodemus is going to St. Louis by train. But the plague can be stopped, if he loses the Shroud, before expiring.
Dresden enlists the aid of Marcone to catch up to the St. Louis train. Dresden, Marcone, and the Knights battle the Denarians to retrieve the Shroud. Dresden strangles Nicodemus with a noose worn as a necktie, which was the same one used to hang Judas and protects the wearer from all harm, save itself. 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, making Shiro’s actions into the deliberate acts of a courageous man.
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 killed Ortega and his warriors in a sneak attack.
Dresden trails Marcone to a secluded, rural hospital. He discovers that Marcone had the Shroud stolen to cure a comatose girl. Dresden tells Marcone it will take three days to see if the Shroud will heal the girl. Then, 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 the coin in his basement lab.
Plot points introduced Edit
- The Denarians and Fallen, and Nicodemus Archleone are introduced.
- Johnny Marcone houses a comatose mysterious girl; this is the source of his determination which Harry glimpsed during their soulgaze in Storm Front.
- The Archive is introduced, and Harry gives her a name: Ivy.
- Kincaid is introduced.
- Sanya and Shiro Yoshimo, the other two Knights of the Cross, are introduced.
- Shiro dies, and his sword, Fidellachius, is entrusted to Harry so that he may pass it on to the next Knight.
- Harry picks up the coin of the Fallen Lasciel.
- The Fellowship of St. Giles is introduced.
- Main article: List of The Dresden Files characters
- Harry Dresden
- Susan Rodriguez
- Michael Carpenter
- Charity Carpenter
- Molly Carpenter
- Paolo Ortega
- Nicodemus Archleone
- Shiro Yoshimo
- Anthony Forthill
Other characters make minor appearances throughout the book.