Ancient Conspiracy: The White Court of vampires has owned the sex industry for centuries at a minimum. And Arturo is a threat to that with his new ideas.
Awesome McCoolname: The "actors" at the studio have to pick stage names, and Bobby considers names like "Rocko Stone" or "Rack McGranite". Finally, at Jake's suggestion, he goes with "Gowan Commando."
Batman Cold Open: The novel begins in a burning building, and what goes on there is not directly related to the rest of the story, but it is where Harry finds Mouse, who becomes a big character throughout the rest of the series.
Berserk Button: When Emma explains that the severe scars left on a survivor of the entropy curse will stop her from acting in porn again, Harry says that "It could be worse", meaning that she would have died if Harry hadn't been right on hand. Emma interprets this as 'she doesn't have to do this awful job anymore', blows her top and starts ranting about how porn is no less a legitimate profession than any other.
Thomas puts his own life on the line to protect Inari. Later admitted by Thomas as reason why he has been helping Harry over the past few years.
Lara honestly loves and cares about her younger siblings. At first, however, she refuses to help Thomas because she knows their father's full strength and is scared by it. So, when she fully understands just how weak and impotent the man has become, she moves to protect Thomas.
First, Lord Raith generally kills off every one of his sons to keep them from being a threat. Thomas has been avoiding this just barely the past few years.
Second Lord Raith rapes and feeds on his daughters to dominate and break their wills, making them his slaves.
Third Lord Raith forbids his children on pain of death to tell the younger siblings that they are vampires. This is to help ensure the child becomes an incubus or succubus and not avoid it by finding a person who genuinely loves them and they feel it in return.
Finally Lord Raith sees his broken daughters just as disposable as the sons if they become too troublesome. Even his most loyal and devoted Lara would be killed if he needed it to happen.
Bilingual Bonus: Inari (稲荷) is the Japanese fox god, and there are lots of stories about shapeshifting fox-women seducing young men and sucking out all their marrow. Also, her favorite food is fried tofu. What sort of pizza topping does Inari offer Harry?
Brainless Beauty: Trixie Vixen. Her being unable to get Harry's name right is a Chekhov's Gag later in the book where it turns out that since she either is not smart enough to remember or just does not care, when the time comes for his name to be vital (in framing him for a murder) she gave the police the wrong name, when Harry had been scared that the police were going to be on his doorstep any minute.
Dresden: "It's not my fault all women like motorcycles, Murphy. They're basically huge vibrators. With wheels."
Later, After Harry and Murphy survive jousting with a truck on her bike, Murphy is laughing hysterically.
Dresden: "What? Why are you laughing?" Murphy: "I think you were right about the vibrator thing."
When Jake Guffie asks what Harry is doing on set, as Harry prepares to defend the location from the dark forces and Harry explains, Jake notes it's like feng shui. After the climax, Jake, Bobby, and Inari go to California to start a feng shui consulting business.
After a fight, Harry learns about the White Court reserves and how stressed a vampire must be to risk using it and the fact even after using the emergency reserves they aren't back to even a decent fighting level. Comes in handy with plotting Lord Raith's defeat.
Unlike Harry, Arturo is not affected by Lara at all. Harry realizes later it was because he is genuinely in love with a woman.
When Harry first meets Madge, he doesn't consider the fact she is carrying lots of plates and cups, so she couldn't even shake hands, a big deal. At the end, he realizes she is a decently powerful practitioner. If they had touched hands, he would have known that about her.
Lara mentions House Skavis and House Malvora in passing. They become much more important in Proven Guilty and White Night..
Lara and Thomas also discuss Madrigal and Madeline Raith. Both would become key plot points later.
The Clan: Clan Murphy makes an appearance with their family reunion and in it Harry meets Karrin's siblings, cousins, and her mother. And Karrin's soon to be brother-in-law, her second ex-husband.
Compensating for Something: After looking between his broken blasting rod and Kincaid's large, high-tech vampire blasting spear, Harry flat out says "My dick is bigger than your dick."
Convection Schmonvection: Defied. Harry attempts to block a flamethrower blast with his shield, causing his hand to get so badly burnt that it's taking years to get better, and that's only because wizards have superior healing ability and Ebenezer manages to restore some blood flow soon after.
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Averted, unlike previous incidents in the series. The CPR risks makings things worse, is so exhausting it takes two people switching off, and doesn't really do much over all.
Cruel and Unusual Death: Several women around Arturo suffer these, one included being hit by a car ... while water skiing. Harry saves another girl from being slammed by a frozen turkey falling at terminal velocity by transferring the target to a Black Court vampire.
A frozen turkey falling at terminal velocity nearly killing a Black Court vampire is one such incident. It brought the fight to a momentary standstill just because of its implausibility. It's specifically mentioned that, even by the standards of the semi-immortal, that is not a trick you see twice.
A case of two persons not seeing just where Dresden has connections. Kincaid and McCoy know each other and Kincaid is generally scared of the old wizard. Considering McCoy is pissed at him for a previous contract and the first thing he does is nearly kill Kincaid on sight, fear is appropriate. Both are shocked Harry knows the other and called them in on the mission.
None of the entropy-curse conspirators seems to have even suspected that it was average-looking Joan whom Arturo had fallen in love with, which means that none of the curse-induced "accidents" could have achieved its intended purpose.
Disease Bleach: Justine after barely surviving being fed on by a near-death Thomas. When she's seen afterwards, she's in a wheelchair and can barely speak.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Harry lays out the extent to which motorcycles are excessively dangerous and can get you seriously maimed, if not killed outright. "All that said, riding a motorcycle is fun."
Dress Hits Floor: After Lord Raith's Engineered Public Confession that he never cared about his daughter Lara and that he's lost his ability to feed, Lara resolves their differences in the traditional White Court manner. Namely, cranking up her Succubus powers to rape her father into submission just as he had been doing to her. Harry and company see as far as this before they have to run for it to keep their own minds.
The Dutiful Daughter: Lara Raith is this towards her father, always there to help him take care of some of his problems. When she learns even she is considered disposable genetic stock and her father has been hiding a debilitating curse that keeps him from feeding, so his vampiric energy reserves are depleted, she doesn't kill him but makes him hers to command and rule the house as a Puppet Lord.
Harry: I helped to do it and lived to walk away. But there was an unhappy ending. Thomas: What? Harry: I didn't get paid. For either case. I make more money from flaming demon monkey crap. That's just wrong.
Engineered Public Confession: After fighting Lord Raith to the point he needs to use his reserves to not be killed by Harry, Harry goads Raith into admitting Harry's mother cursed Raith so he could no longer feed and he had just tapped his last bits of reserve. This may make him more than enough for a weary Harry, but Lara, who heard this, is beyond him now and she will make sure he knows it.
Establishing Character Moment: When Harry is rushing out with the box of puppies, one of them with a notch in his ear is standing up against the side barking his head off while all the other puppies are staying low. That little puppy would be an unnamed Mouse.
Everything's Worse with Bees: The entropy curse's first victim, Arturo's driver, was killed by a swarm of them which inexplicably turned up in the trunk of a car.
Evil-Detecting Dog: Harry saves a litter of them at the start and one decides to stick around with him. Even at a young age and small size, the pup can sense evil actions, like Black Court vampires or when a White Court is feeding.
Evil Is Petty: The entire motivation of the main villains. Lord Raith wants to discredit Arturo because he's interfering with the White Court's monopoly on the porn market. The three women Raith's working the entropy curse with are all Arturo's ex-wives who want to kill the woman Arturo wants to marry so they can keep their full shares of his alimony checks and Will.
It's even more petty than that, because their killing of women around Arturo is pretty much guaranteed to drive him into bankruptcy when the production fails, rendering their checks and his Will virtually worthless. It may have started being about money for the ex-es, but it's pretty clear they're really out to get back at him, his new girlfriend, and/or one another. They also can't be bothered to make certain of their target before they start killing, resulting in the deaths of several women who have nothing to do with their dispute.
Fate Worse than Death: Invoked by Harry's mother Margaret when she was faced against Lord Raith after giving birth to Harry. She was too weak to fight him and would be killed by the powerful vampire, so with her final act, her Death Curse, she doesn't kill him but steals his ability to feed anymore, leaving the man crippled and if he were to ever reveal the truth he would be turned on by his own "loyal" family. Further noted by Butcher had she just killed him, another would have taken his place but this single act turned his expansionist agenda back to total defense and fear of infighting. None of the Court could advance far because the King wouldn't permit it.
Fear Is the Appropriate Response: Kincaid is a badass, as seen in the previous book. He is cool under pressure and knows how to handle a wizard's death curse. That said, he is terrified of McCoy, the personal hitman of the white Council. Considering the one he fears dropped a satellite on his enemy's fortress and who knows what other dark magics for the greater good, and swore to kill Kincaid if they ever crossed paths again, his fear is not unfounded.
Youngest child Lisa is the foolish one to her elder, and eldest sibling, Karrin Murphy. Karrin is the hard-nosed cop with a strong drive. Karrin describes Lisa as being a very loose woman with no real focus.
To House Raith, Lara Raith is the responsible one as she continues to serve her father and do his various jobs. Thomas appears to be an aloof fool.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Because Lord Raith said so. His desires and sexual fetishes have slowly influenced the world's view on beauty and attractiveness.
Great Big Book of Everything: If someone wishes to know anything about the Black Court vampires, all one needs do is pick up a copy of Stoker's Dracula. Commissioned by the White Court it provides a "How To" source on identifying and eliminating Black Court Vampires.
He Is Not My Dog!: Harry continuously asserts this about the pup that wandered off from his littermates. No one, including the readers, really buys it.
Upon learning Marva and her scourge are in town, Kincaid's suggestion is to toss gasoline in the place, burn it down, and then burn whatever remains. He even says this when told there are likely hostages inside. But when the battle is over, and he sees the hostages are young children, some younger than five years old, he admits that the less efficient raid Harry wanted might have been a better choice.
Ebenezer "Blackstaff" McCoy is the personal hitman of the White Council, with the power and full authority to break any of the seven laws of magic. He usually only did it when inaction and adherence to the strict laws would end up making the worlds a worse place.
Holy Burns Evil: Of the three courts, the Black Court suffers worst from this.
Honest Corporate Executive: Arturo. When he realizes something bad is going happening around, he seeks magical help. When told he could try to save others by shutting down production, he considers it. He uses all natural footage, no digital enhancements of any sort, and uses people of any size. This in fact is one of the biggest issues the Big Bad has with him as these practices are against the norm but are making waves and changes to the porn industry.
Hypocrite: Harry is furious at the revelation the man who took him in after killing Justin and taught him to respect the Laws of Magic is the one person in the Council with the authority to violate the laws as the Council's hitman.
I Have Reserves: Lord Raith's general view about his children, even Lara. He can always make more if need be. Lara does not take the reveal well and responds accordingly when Harry gets him to reveal he isn't as strong as he once was and can no longer feed to recover his strength.
Kincaid's go-to method to dealing with a scourge? Bomb the nest, burn the remains, put fire out and burn the rest. Hostages be damned.
Some of Marva's agents wield flamethrowers at Kincaid, Harry, and, Murphy. Harry's shield blocks the actual flames but Marva guessed, correctly, that it wouldn't block the heat of the fire and results in Harry baking his own hand.
Kill It with Water: Because Harry and Murphy nix the killing with fire idea, Kincaid plans ahead and hands out paintball guns filled with rounds containing holy water and garlic. Safe against humans but would devastate a Black Court vampire.
Little Stowaway: A small puppy from the litter Harry saved decided to stay with him and climbed out of the box.
The Loins Sleep Tonight: Fear that this trope may strike on-set is why Bobby reacts badly to Harry's "stunt man" joke.
A half-hysterical chuckle slipped out of my mouth. "Wait, I've seen this one before. This is where you say, 'Search your feelings; you know it to be true.'"
Mercy Kill: Considering what a monster among monsters her father is, Lara considers just shooting Thomas to stop his attempted coup.
Mexican Standoff: Harry ends up in one with Lara Raith. Both know secrets of the other, Harry being Thomas' brother and Lara being the power behind the throne, that should be revealed would be the destruction of each other. So they agree to not reveal them for a few agreeable terms.
Murphy deals with this, with her as the Ex, and her second husband being engaged to her sister. She is not pleased with this fact.
Arturo has three ex's he works with, and one lady he plans on wedding who truly makes him happy. They don't approve, as she would have power of attorney over his estate, and thus could get in the way of their handsome alimony checks. So they try to kill her.
Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Lara has known her father is a horrible monster. Years of rape and domination at his awesome power made her fearful to try anything against him. However, upon learning that even she, his most loyal of daughters, is considered disposable to him and he no longer has the power to feed and is now has used up his reserves, leaving him just over empty, she finds it much easier to break from his control and become the dominating person in the family.
Murder the Hypotenuse: The MO of Arturo's ex-wives is to kill any woman near him before he can marry one of them, as a new Mrs. Genosa would deny them alimony and would control his property in the event of his death.
Madge also murders Arturo's other two ex-wives, Lucille by ritual sacrifice and Trixie by casting a spell that suffocates her slowly until she's unceremoniously dumped into the Deeps pit. Far too late to preserve her marriage to Arturo, but still a belated example.
The Needs of the Many: The White Council lives by the Seven Laws of Magic that help govern and control the wizards from doing black magic. But there are times when an enemy will use the rules against them so at times like this, when following the law is the worst option, the Council calls on Ebenezer McCoy, the assassin of the Council, who has the full authority to break the sacred laws.
Not So Different: Harry comes to the conclusion his mentor Ebenezer is not that different from monsters like Kincaid or Ortega as he is the hitman of the Council with full jurisdiction to violate the Seven Laws of Magic if adhering to them would not be for the common good.
Harry. Harry. Oh, and Harry. He is much smarter than he lets on. Referenced by Lara Raith when she realizes she was being played by Harry to preform a coup d'etat on her father and got her father to reveal all of his weaknesses in an Engineered Public Confession. She is most impressed by this action.
This is how Thomas has survived so long in the House Raith. He played the fool to not arouse suspicion.
Old Master: Ebenezer McCoy, Harry's second mentor, easily over 200 years old, is a powerful combat mage when the need arises. He is also the White Council's personal hitman with full discretion to break the laws and someone Kincaid actually fears. Had he known Dresden called the old man to the job, Kincaid would have not agreed to it.
Orifice Invasion: How the unbound, gaseous He Who Walks Behind kills Madge. Horribly.
Out-of-Character Alert: Harry realizes that Murphy is pretending to be enslaved to Lord Raith's will when she calls him "Mr. Dresden." She usually calls him "Harry," or "Dresden" if she's annoyed with him, but almost never "Mr. Dresden."
Parental Incest: Lord Raith not only sleeps with his daughters, he feeds on them, to break them even more.
The Power of Love: It is one of the strongest forces in the world. It is so strong the White Court vampires cannot eat or even touch a person who is in love and is loved in return. Thus forever protecting Justine as Thomas loved her enough to risk his own life and stop feeding off of her when he needed it the most. Sadly, this means he also can't touch her from now on without getting horribly burned.
Rage Against the Mentor: Harry becomes furious at his former mentor when McCoy reveals that he is the Blackstaff, the Council's hitman who can violate all the Laws.
Rape and Revenge: Type I: Lord Raith was known for "conditioning" his daughters into his loyal servants, who would do any task he set forth. When Lara learns her father can not longer feed and is severely weakened, she responds by first sending an intense level of lust and seduction at the old man. What happens later, well it isn't described. All the readers know is Lord Raith became the puppet with Lara pulling the strings.
Reality Warper: Of a very limited version. When someone invokes the entropy curse, they shift the laws of probability toward a person's death. However, while they have no control over the particulars of the death, the caster's mindset will change how the death comes about, from a car striking a woman while she's water skiing near a pier when the caster is a scatter-brain to a stray bullet striking the victim when the caster has a serious, focused mind. As a result, some of the effects displayed were quite... unique. And of course when Harry momentarily channels the curse to save a victim it plays out like a Looney Tunes gag.
Reluctant Fanservice Girl: During the fight with the black court vampires Dresden, Kincaid, and Murphy find hostages, unfortunately there's a trip mine, and Kincaid and Dresden are too big to fit under and disable it. Murphy ends up having to ditch her pants to fit under, she is not amused.
Even better, since she's already under the lasers and can't move around much Kincaid has to take them off for her. AND she has to stay like that the rest of the fight because her pants get destroyed.
Dresden: "Pink panties. With little white bows. I wouldn't have guessed that. They really go with Kevlar and the gun belt, Murph. Shows you're a woman with her priorities straight."
Harry's mentor McCoy is the White Council's hitman with all rights to break any of the seven laws to take down people as needed.
Mother Murphy explains to Harry that her husband used to run the equivalent to the SI department back in the day. However, Karrin is not aware of any of this.
Thomas is Harry's half-brother by Maggie Dresden.
Supreme Chef: Mother Murphy, Karrin's mother and matriarch of the family. When Harry bites just a simple burger she cooked, he nearly melts and considers wedding Murphy just to eat this level of cooking on Thanksgiving.
Threat Backfire: The Death Curse Harry could lay out if he was killed is something most in the supernatural community seriously. Kincaid, who tells Harry if he fails to pay for a the job he will be killed, is unimpressed and tells Harry to kill him, he would snipe him with a supersonic bullet from over 1000 yards away. Too fast and too quick for Harry to conjure the curse. Harry realized this could work.
Tome of Eldritch Lore: Subverted in forbidding it. When discussing the mechanics of ritual magic, Harry explains that the White Council pushed to have dark ritual books published and distributed to as many people as possible. When Murphy asks (understandably) why the good guys would want to do that, he tells her that summoning dark powers through rituals is like water coming out of a pipe. If you have thousands drawing from the same line, it loses all effectiveness because there is not enough power to go around. Hence, the only rituals in the Dresdenverse with overwhelming power are the ones that are kept secret.
The Unseen: Harry never does meet Arturo's second ex-wife Lucille alive, although he comes very close when she tries to murder him with a blowgun.
Vegetarian Vampire: Inari is both a straight and literal example, as she hasn't yet fed on anyone and eats no meat.
You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Murphy tells Dresden's mentor, Ebenezar, to get out of the driver's seat so she can take the wheel and get them to their destination before people die. She is not polite as she says this. Harry sighs, and asks Ebenezar to take her lead, slipping in the word "sir." Murphy drops her jaw, and everything she is holding at the time, and calls Harry out on this. After a second, Murphy asks Ebenezar again. This time, she is very polite when asking.