"Harry Dresden's faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you're the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.
But in all Harry's years of supernatural sleuthing, he's never faced anything like this: the spirit world's gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble — and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone — or something — is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc.
But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn't figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself...." 
It's been a year since the events in Fool Moon. For the past two weeks, violent ghosts have been popping up all over Chicago. Harry Dresden enlists the help of Michael Carpenter, his friend and a Knight of the Cross, to deal with the chaos. Harry has a hot tip from Bob that a ghost named Agatha Hagglethorn will appear in the Cook County Hospital that night to kill the infants in the nursery. On the drive to the hospital in the Blue Beetle, Michael questions Harry's feelings for Susan Rodriguez, his reporter girlfriend. Dresden finally admits that he loves Susan. Michael tells Harry that he should be honest with Susan about his feelings and marry her.
Dresden, not in the mood for a lecture, shrugs it off. He claims that fighting evil takes all of his time. Michael explains that family is an anchor to all that is good in life; family provides love and warm human contact and family helps fight the temptation of the dark side. Michael has noticed that Harry’s been growing more remote and he argues that the forces Dresden controls have a dark side that present constant temptations. Dresden is annoyed and hurt by Michael’s warning, but he ignores it in favor of focusing on the crisis at hand.
Speeding past a parked police car, Harry sees the officer inside do a double take, then pull out behind them, siren blaring. Harry swears, then resigns himself to the fact that the police will be right behind them. They arrive at the hospital, Harry equipped with his staff, blasting rod and a sack of Ghost Dust, and Michael with his cloak and sword, Amoracchius, concealed in a duffel bag. Getting directions to the nursery from an orderly, the two rush up the stairs.
Arriving at the hospital nursery but not seeing any nurses or staff, the two proceed cautiously. Dresden, concerned that the ghost will be able to sense Amoracchius, tells Michael to wait in the hallway while he goes on ahead. As he enters the room, Dresden hears a haunting melody and sees the nurses asleep at their stations. He realises that the ghost is casting a sleep spell with her lullaby. One of the babies who fell asleep under the spell stops beathing. Harry readies his sack of ghost dust but first has to address the ghost in order to make sure it has fully materialized. Agatha Hagglethorn initially belives that she is alive in 1900's Chicago, but Harry confronts her by reminding her about how she died a long time ago. Agatha, angered by her memories, materalizes an axe from thin air. Harry dashes forward to the child who had stopped breathing and smacks the baby lightly on the bottom to wake her. Aggatha punches Harry, sending him flying as he yells for Michael.
Agatha raises a wind storm, making Harry unable to throw his ghost dust. Michel charges in and manages to block an attack from Agatha's axe. Harry shoves the sack of ghost dust into the arm holding the axe, but Agatha detaches her arm at the shoulder and disappears into the Nevernever. Harry and Michael follow, despite Harry's reluctance. During the ensuing fight in Agatha's demesne, the ghost manages to break Harry shield, which sets the building on fire. Nonetheless, Michael manages to kill Agatha with Amoracchius. As they stand over her body, they notice that a single-strand of barbed wire is wrapped around her from neck to ankle, cutting deeply and painfully into her ghost flesh. The spell wire had been invisible in the mortal realm.
As they attempt to return though the rift back to the hospital the Leanansidhe and her Hellhounds encircle them. Lea greets Dresden as her godson and reminds him of the long-ago pact he made to serve her. Harry pretends to agree to going to go with her in order to get close enough to dump his ghost dust down her dress, since the iron content makes it poisonous to the fey. With Lea distracted, Harry and Michael escape back through the barrier into the nursery. Chicago PD then burst into the room. Though they are unable to charge Michael and Harry for breaking into a public nursery, the police arrest them on a series of misdemeanor charges including speeding, reckless driving and illegal parking. In jail, they discuss who might be tormenting and releasing violent ghosts into Chicago.
Dresden is distressed by the loss of his Dead Man's Talisman, a charm that protects him against harm from spirits. Earlier that day, a clairvoyant named Lydia came to Harry for help. She told Harry that she had a prophetic gift known as Cassandra's Tears and that she had had three visions foretelling her death before nightfall that day. She also claimed that she had seen that Harry was the only person who could protect her from the spirit that killed her in her vision. Harry was suspicious, since Cassandra's Tears is a popular scam among low-level practioners because it cannot be confirmed. Despite his better judgement, Harry gave her his talisman and told her to take shelter at Saint Mary of the Angels. Dresden wonders if she has survived.
After Charity, Michael's wife, bails Michael out of jail, she takes him home to his family. Susan then appears to bail out Harry. When they arrive at Harry's apartment, two vampires appear. The vampire twins, Kelly and Kyle Hamilton, deliver a formal invitation to a party celebrating the elevation of Madame Bianca to Margravine of the Red Court of vampires. Dresden, as the local representative of the White Council, is obliged to accept the invitation to avoid diplomatic incident but he forces them to leave immeadiately after the delivery is complete. Susan wants to attend the party with Harry because she sees it as an opportunity for her as a reporter to collect stories from a gathering of centuries-old creatures. Harry claims that it is far too dangerous, since Bianca holds a grudge against him and there is a lot of room for her to maneuver around the laws of hospitality that are supposed to promise him safety as her guest. Harry and Susan start to argue about the party, but are distracted by Susan's questions about the White Council. Finally, Harry conclusively ends their discussion.
The next morning, Harry wakes to Michael banging on his door. Apparently, something spent the night attempting to get into Saint Mary of the Angels. Michael and Dresden visit Father Forthill at the church and he tells them that Lydia arrived the prior afternoon and he gave her food and a place to stay. That night, a spirit attacked the church and Lydia panicked and fled out the back door. Dresden decides to go see Mortimer Lindquist for information about ghosts and the spirit world.
Mort appears to be leaving the city for a few days when Harry turns up. Harry asks Mort why things have been so turbulant in the spirit world lately. Mort states that the barrior between the physical world and the Nevernever is weakening and will soon collapse. Mort catches his cab but not before giving Harry his research notes and warning him that a big, angry "nightmare" came across last night.
When Dresden gets home, Rawlins and Rudolph where waiting for him. Murphy had sent them to get him for a personal favor. When Dresden arrives at the scene, he is mystified and angry to find that the same barbed wire spell used on Agatha Hagglethorn was cast on one of their mutual friends, Micky Malone. Harry rushes to remove the wire and end his friend's torment.
Back at his apartment, Dresden receives a short call from Susan asking for information about Leonid Kravos, a ritual killer whom Harry had helped the police arrest by tracking him through the demon he had summoned. After ending the call, Harry pumps Bob for information on the recent epidemic of violent spirits, the barbed wire spell and Mort's warnings about the nightmare. Bob is terrified of a creature that is capable of attacking spirits in this way and suggests they flee. Instead, Dresden tricks Bob into revealing that he thinks someone might be torturing the spirits in order to weaken the barrier and allow the nightmare to cross into the mortal world. Harry dismisses Bob's claims that whoever is doing this must have god-like power and decides that they have to find and question Lydia.
Harry sends out Bob to look for her and does a location spell to find her through his Dead Man's Talisan. He finds her but realizes too late that it was a trap and is jumped by the Hamilton twins. He nearly defeats them, but they manage to escape with Lydia. Dresden makes it home and sleeps off the Hamiltons’ vampire venom. In his dream, he’s attacked by the Nightmare. Forcing himself awake, Dresden discovers that he really was attacked and most of his chi was eaten, reducing his energy levels. Dresden realizes that whenever he and his friends sleep they become the targets of a vengeful spirit, a literal nightmare. Someone is using Kravos’ pet demon as the Nightmare to destroy the people who foiled Kravos’ schemes. This theory is confirmed when Murphy is assaulted. The only unharmed member of their supernatural swat team is Michael. Unwilling to face a Knight of the Cross, the Nightmare kidnaps Michael’s pregnant wife, Charity.
Dresden and Michael search for Charity. Dresden spots the Nightmare dragging Charity into a cemetery and battles it, but he’s losing. Suddenly, the Leanansidhe appears and promises to help Harry if he pledges himself to her service. Desperate, Dresden accepts the bargain. Leanansidhe says the "help" he needs to defeat the Nightmare is all around him then leaves.
Michael arrives and they take on the Nightmare together. Dresden tackles and rolls it into a little stream—which as Leanansidhe said, is "all around him." The Nightmare melts into ectoplasm, vowing to return at the next sunset. Michel rushes to his pregnant wife and discovers that she has gone into labor. Leanansidhe arrives to take possession of Dresden, but he picks up Michael’s sword, Amoracchius, and uses it against his faerie godmother. With a hand-numbing jolt, Amoracchius spins itself out of Dresden’s hand and lands at the faerie's feet. Since Dresden defiled the holy blade, Leanansidhe is able to pick it up and steal it.
Charity delivers a boy, but the doctor doesn’t know if he will survive the complications. Charity isn’t doing as well as expected. Since Dresden cannot determine which of his enemies is controlling the Nightmare, he casts a spell that binds the Nightmare to kill only him, so it cannot harm anyone else.
When Dresden bound the Nightmare, he felt the manipulating sorcerer’s presence. Micheal and he go to Bianca’s party to identify that presence from the large gathering of Harry's enemies. At the entrance, they meet Thomas Raith, a representative of the White Court vampires who helps them get into the party without Harry's invitation, and Justine, his human date.
The vampires welcome Dresden with a goblet of wine poisoned with narcotic vampire venom. Michael keeps Dresden on his feet, so they can find the sorcerer. They discover Susan, who is not protected by the hospitality laws because she came uninvited. Susan refuses to leave without Harry or let him order her away from the danger. Leanansidhe appears and her proximity further weakens Dresden, due to his broken promise to her. Susan offers Leanansidhe a year of her memory to make the poison stop hurting Harry. She agrees and kisses Susan’s forehead and leaves them. With her amnesia, Susan no longer recognizes Harry.
As Harry and Micheal are hustling a confused Susan out of the party, they encounter Michael’s old foe, Mavra of the Black Court vampires. Dresden senses that she is the sorcerer manipulating the Nightmare. Before they can escape, the gift presentation ceremony begins. Dresden receives a tombstone. The inscription declares, "He died doing the right thing." Leanansidhe gives Amoracchius to Madame Bianca as a gift. As part of the evening's entertainment, Mavra will unmake the sword with the blood of an innocent person. The guards bring in Lydia. It's a set up. Dresden and Michael will have to violate the rules of hospitality and the Unseelie Accords, in order to save Lydia and the sword.
The Red Court vampires surround them. Thomas joins Dresden in exchange for his protection. He refused to give Justine to Bianca, so he and Justine are marked for death, too. Fighting back to back, they rescue Lydia, but Amoracchius is lost. Bianca captures Justine but offers to spare her if Thomas will betray Dresden. Thomas pushes Susan into the mob of vampires but Bianca keeps Justine and orders Thomas’ death. He flees and Susan is dragged away screaming. Dresden incinerates everyone and everything in the immediate area, but he spends all his power and collapses. Michael carries Lydia and Dresden out of the inferno and they escape in Michael’s truck.
Dresden regains consciousness a day later. He’s slightly burned, but Lydia is safe and asleep. Michael has been guarding them in spite of his own wounds. Thomas knocks at Dresden's door and proposes they work together to rescue Susan and Justine. Michael calls him a liar and suggests they kill him. As an offer of good faith, Thomas gives them Amoracchius.
Lydia awakes but she is possessed by the Nightmare and attacks them. Thomas subdues her and Dresden exorcises the spirit. They discover that Kravos is the Nightmare. Mavra is the one tormenting ghosts with the barbed wire spell. The two were working for Bianca, who wants revenge for Rachel’s death (in Storm Front).
As they journey through the Nevernever to sneak into Bianca’s house, Leanansidhe captures Dresden. He makes a bargain that she will not bother him for a year and a day. Bound by it, she releases him. Michael and Thomas made no such bargain, so she attacks them. They urge Dresden to rescue Susan and Justine while they hold off the Hellhounds and fiends.
Dresden goes through the spirit barrier into Bianca’s house. He’s captured because Bianca watched the barrier, waiting for him to rescue Susan. She locks him in a room with Justine and a very thristy Susan. Bianca has partly turned her into a vampire and since she doesn't remember that she loves Harry she's willing to kill him for his blood. Harry saves himself by returning her memories to her and telling her he loves her, which motivates her to regain some self-control.
Harry falls asleep as part of his plan to defeat Kravos. Kravos kills Harry in his dream, but Susan performs CPR on his body to bring him back to life. Together with his newly created ghost, Dresden overcomes and consumes the Nightmare to take back all his stolen chi and steal Kravos' power. Harry wakes up and he, Susan and Justine try to escape, but they're stopped by Bianca and her people. Bianca offers a compromise: Dresden gets Justine, his magical items, and safe passage; in exchange, Bianca gets Susan as punishment for Rachel's death. If Dresden refuses and tries to rescue Susan, she declares that there will be war between the vampires and the White Council. Dresden replies that he loves Susan and he thinks that saving her is worth stating a war. Dresden then raises the spirits of the victims of Bianca and her guests, who destroy the entire mansion and drag Bianca and the rest of her goons into a massive pit of fire.
After the battle, Susan disappears. Her apartment is up for rent; she's not at her job. Dresden tracks her down to a secluded cottage and proposes marriage, but Susan refuses. She claims that her bloodlust around him is confusing and she cannot control it. She needs time to adjust to and deal with her new vampiric nature, so she leaves town.
In the lonely days that follow, Bob and Mister make sure that Dresden has companionship. Murphy and Michael come bearing gifts of groceries, charcoal, and kerosene. Michael tells Dresden that he and Charity named their son after him, Harry Carpenter. And last, but not least, Dresden receives a card from Susan on his birthday, Halloween.
Plot points introduced Edit
- Susan Rodriguez is half-turned into a Red Court vampire and leaves Chicago.
- The Red Court of Vampires declares war on the White Council.
- Michael Carpenter is introduced.
- Charity Carpenter is introduced.
- Leanansidhe is introduced as Harry's godmother.
- Main article: List of The Dresden Files characters
- ↑ Butcher, Jim. "Grave Peril", back cover.