This is the first of The Dresden Files series, featuring a wizard (Harry Dresden) openly practising in present-day Chicago, in an alternative world in which it is accepted (rather reluctantly and with varying degrees of scepticism) that wizardry exists. He makes his living by finding things that people have lost, and also works as a consultant for the police, called in whenever they find a crime in which the supernatural seems to be involved.
Storm Front begins with just such a call, to the scene of a pair of spectacularly bizarre deaths. Dresden is soon caught between conflicting pressures – the demands of the police to help solve the crime, the threats of a gangster boss who doesn't want him to, and the requirements of the secret White Council of wizards, who might decide to execute him if he reveals too much to non-wizards. Threading a route through this minefield stretches Dresden to the limit, especially when he becomes the next target of the murderer.
Although this is the first of the series (published in 2000), Dresden already has quite a backstory, as gradually becomes clear with hints that he has far more powers than he dare reveal. In an interview reproduced at the end of my copy of the book, Butcher reveals that he always intended this to be a long series (fifteen and counting) and planned the story arc accordingly.
The story is recounted by Dresden in the first person, in a laconic style typical of a classic Private Investigator story. I am most reminded of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, and it is perhaps to Butcher's disadvantage that I only encountered his work after reading Jacka, Aaronovitch and various other authors writing stories about magic in contemporary London. I prefer Jacka's work, partly because I enjoy stories set in a place I know, secondly because I find Alex Verus a more intriguing character – I like the fact that he lacks the devastating powers of most magicians and needs to rely on his talent for divination and his wits to survive. And finally, I prefer Jacka's writing, with its constant thread of dry humour. However, Storm Front is not bad at all – it is entertaining and enjoyable and I might go on to read other books in this series.