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Literature: Dead Beat
Warning! All spoilers for previous books are unmarked on this page!

Harry has a problem. Yes, again.

He’s just been hired to find The Word of Kemmler, the personal spellbook of a powerful necromancer, which is also being hunted by any number of Kemmler’s apprentices and, really, anyone who would want to unlock the secrets of powerful necromancy—including a spell that would allow the caster to become a demi-god by devouring the spirits of the dead.

Oh, and a T. rex is involved.

Dead Beat is book #7 in The Dresden Files. Now has its own Shout Out page.


Dead Beat provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Duo: Dresden and Butters.
  • The Archmage:
    • Cowl is described as being on par or stronger than McCoy, Mr. Colony Drop. He survived Harry throwing a car on him. He is not to be taken lightly.
    • The Merlin created a whole protective ward in Faerie to help the escaping injured wizards.
      • To clarify, Harry uses several different wards on his apartment to achieve the "shocked to paste" effect. The Merlin uses a single ward to stop an army of vampires, an army which included Outsiders, beings that are normally immune to magic.
    • Captain Luccio is on the lower tier of this but shows it by dispatching a dozen or so zombies with such concentrated and fine form of fire magic.
  • Artistic License - Geography: Butcher has Harry going up Lake Shore Drive to Evanston. Lake Shore Drive actually ends at Hollywood Avenue, well south of Evanston. "In 2004, a private foundation solicited plans, and the Chicago Park District considered a feasibility study, to extend Lake Shore Drive farther north through Rogers Park and into Evanston." so maybe in that setting the road was built longer.
    • A more minor one; one of the necromantic hotspots Harry visits is Wacker Drive. Wacker is well known for having two levels, called Upper Wacker and Lower Wacker. Anyone who knows Chicago as well as Harry does would have specified if it was on Upper or Lower Wacker.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The necromancers plan to sacrifice thousands to become demigods.
  • Batman Gambit: Aimed for by Cowl and the Red Court. The Reds attacked and kidnapped a significant enough target to draw out the Senior Council and hit them hard when they were trying to rescue and retaliate. This left them weary from battle. Meanwhile because of this attack and so many damaged, it left few to go to Harry's rescue to deal with Cowl, helping increase the odds of his victory. Had Cowl succeeded, he would have the powers of a minor god. With those powers, he could have broken the wards around the White Council HQ and killed the now weakened Senior Council.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Happens with Lasciel, until Harry realizes that this is his head and that means he calls the shots, resulting in a Curb Stomp Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • Berserk Button: Don't threaten Harry's friends. It is unwise and while he may do a lot to keep them safe, it just puts a big target on the back of the one making the threat.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rawlins tells Harry when he was a younger officer, he heard a scream in an alley and went to save a woman when a thing attacked him. Even after unloading his gun into the thing the supernatural creature just threw him in the wall. Then Collin Murphy arrived and blasted the thing with rock salt. Come dawn, the remains were destroyed by the sun.
  • Black Cloak: Harry is less than impressed by Cowl and Kumori's fashion sense.
    Harry: "Touche, oh dark master of evil bathrobes."
  • Body Surf: Corpsetaker's preferred method of operation.
  • Boom, Headshot: Harry puts a round into the back of the Corpsetaker inside Captain Luccio's body. A sudden and swift death, she couldn't cast her Death Curse.
  • Cain and Abel: The opening has Harry namecheck the story when he comes home to find that Thomas not only hasn't cleaned, but hasn't left to allow the brownies time to clean the apartment, either.
    Narrator!Harry: On the whole, we're a murderous race. According to Genesis, it took as few as four people to make the planet too crowded to stand, and the first murder was a fratricide. Genesis says that in a fit of jealous rage, the very first child born to mortal parents, Cain, snapped and popped the first metaphorical cap in another human being. The attack was a bloody, brutal, violent, reprehensible killing. Cain's brother Abel probably never saw it coming. As I opened the door to my apartment, I was filled with a sense of empathic sympathy and intuitive understanding. For freaking Cain.
  • Call Back: The EMT at Cook County recognizes Harry from his talk show appearance in Death Masks, and only agrees to talk because Harry and Michael ended the hospital nursery's rash of ghost-induced SIDS cases in Grave Peril.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Harry tells Butters a few things about zombies, including how Grvane has some from the early 1900s and would made them stronger than any of the fresh kills he made. Now, with Sue being thousands of years older than even the oldest undead or spirit, she is the top undead.
  • Chekhov's Exhibit: Sue the T-Rex is doubly important. In her mouth the Word is located and Harry, technically, steals her to save the world.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The GPS system in Georgia's SUV. It does not actually show up itself, but the GPS itself gives Harry his Eureka Moment when he realizes that the numbers on Bony Tony's flash drive are GPS coordinates.
    • Butters's one-man Polka suit (and ability to play it) become a combination of Chekhov's Gun and Chekhov's Skill later in the book, as they're used to keep a zombie T-Rex under control.
    • Harry mentions Sue the T-rex skeleton housed in one of Chicago's museums a few times.
    • Shelia never grabbed a book from Harry or spoke when others were in the room.
    • Mab and her explanation of what happened to Lea. Also, the knife she wore.
    • The Wild Hunt itself. Read the trope page and note who else was said to have led it.
    • Butter's act of saving Harry from a former Knight of the Blackened Denarius would help shape the man in ways he couldn't imagine.
    • When Mort speaks about Jack Murphy, Karin's dead father, he uses present tense by saying "I know her father."
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Officer Rawlins first appears in this book and would play a few small roles later.
    • Rawlins also mentions he knew Karrin's father Collin Murphy in his life.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Butters is taught how to create a magic circle around himself to keep out stray magical influences thus allowing him to use a GPS device. He then uses this skill to keep specters from killing him.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The museum scene, where Cassius tortures Harry for no reason other than personal enjoyment. Of course, this is the guy that Harry himself tortured not two books earlier for information.
  • Conscription: Because the Wardens lost many in the recent attack by the Reds, Harry is drafted into the Wardens.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Harry remembers this being the pseudo-superpower of the Knights of the Cross, and smiles in the face of Cold-Blooded Torture, knowing Michael or Sanya will show up to save him. Waldo Butters ends up saving Harry along with Mouse.
  • Cool Car: Subverted with Billy and Georgia's giant SUV. Butters is talking about all the cool features of these new cars- and then he turns on the GPS. It has apparently been around Harry too long already.
    "Now entering Helsinki."
  • Cool Sword: Part of the defenses in the Warden's anti-magic blade is that only the Wizard it was crafted for could draw out its power. For this reason, when Morgan sees Anastasia Luccio in the body of a 20-something woman wielding her blade and drawing on its power, he knows she is truly his Captain.
  • Deader Than Dead: The Necromancer Kemmler's back story: "They killed him good. A couple of times. He'd come back after they'd killed him early in the nineteenth century, so they were real careful this time."
  • Deadly Gas: The Red Court hired human mercenaries to attack injured Wardens and Council members while they were resting in a muggle hospital. With what was suspected to be sarin. Thousands died.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Harry speaks to his father this way, though he is not a ghost.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • Lasciel didn't see Butter's coming to where she was with Harry, thus breaking the illusions.
    • Grevane didn't foresee Bone Tony being Genre Savvy enough to hide the book so well.
    • Harry didn't see Mab, not Lea, answering his summons.
    • Luccio didn't see Harry telling her about Morgan's dirty cop actions back in Summer Knight and his other badgering and wrongful persecution before then. Reversing it, Harry didn't see Luccio's general anger and shock at the truth, telling Harry she didn't honestly know about Morgan's behavior.
    • The Red Court hiring human mercenaries to kill a few wizards in a hospital filled with thousands of patients, doctors, nurses, and other staff by using a deadly gas.
    • Really, no one on any side foresaw Harry reanimating a dinosaur to ride into battle.
  • Double Standard Abuse Female Onmale: Thomas gets hit with this to brutal effect. Every time he tries to get a job, no more than a couple of days pass before a random woman sexually assaults him and he gets fired.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: A variation. The Deathhollow suck all life force into it within a given radius. The only way one can shield himself from the drain is by using necromancy.
  • Enemy Mine: Marcone gives Harry some help because Grevane killed a man who was about to retire from Marcone's business and if the bad guys got the Word bad bad things would happen to his town.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Old beings like Mavra are considered monsters by Harry, but if they promise one a truce and safe passage, their word is solid.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The legendary incident in Dead Beat, which seems to be widely considered the defining moment of the series so far (c.f., the Laconic and Haiku versions of this page).
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In a less common example of this trope being a detriment to the heroes, rather than a blessing. Harry spends a good portion of this book taking risks to protect Butters. Thomas points out that although he understands why Harry is doing it (because of friendship), Grevane probably won't, and might conclude that Butters is still important to the scheme somehow.
  • Executive Meddling: Butcher'd originally planned Dead Beat to be the eighth Dresden novel, but his publishers urged him to make his seventh book an especially spectacular one to mark the first hardcover release of the series, so he swapped this one and Proven Guilty. Cue the zombie dinosaur.
  • Failure Hero: For most of the book, Harry is either a step behind his enemies or ahead because they let him get there. However, it's ultimately subverted, as the ending seems quite determined to nullify this.
  • Famed in Story: Luccio points out to Harry his actions from the past few books have gotten him known and really respected by the younger generation of the Council. Even the Erlking is impressed with his slaying of Aurora.
  • Fatal Flaw: Grevane is full of himself. He believes he is the chosen one to continue his Master's work. So the thought of him dying never entered the mind and so never prepared to cast a Death Curse in his final moments.
  • Foreshadowing: Dresden is death cursed to "die alone". This cannot be good.
  • Friend or Foe: Figuring out who is on what side gets quite ugly at the climax when the Corpsetaker can switch bodies.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Mavra knows Harry pretty well. So she sets things up so that in the event that Harry kills her during their meeting, the evidence she has on Murphy will be set out anyway.
    • Dresden wonders whether he is in High Noon or early in The Maltese Falcon when trying to work out whether or not it is safe to go outside.
    • One of Marcone's people was killed by the actions of the necromancers, so he wants revenge. Knowing the type of man Harry is, he bets that Harry will move to stop them, and so Marcone aids Harry in his quest.
    • Bone Tony displays remarkable savvy when he hides the book in such a way no wizard or warlock could find it.
  • Grand Theft Me: The specialty of the Corpsetaker. Since she's been around a while, she's racked up quite a body count, but the three known victims are the old professor, the intern with the dimples (who she wears for the majority of the book), and Luccio.
  • Gratuitous German: Die Lied der Erlking (The grammatically correct title would be Das Lied des Erlkonigs). Lampshaded in-series when Harry finds the author of the book — an anal retentive Obstructive Bureaucrat — and taunts him over the fact that he screwed up the title. His miffed response is that "German is an untidy language". This is either a subtle joke by the author or an honest mistake, as German is a more logical language than English.
  • Gun Safety: When Billy gives Harry his revolver back after Harry lost it in a fight, Billy tells Harry it is empty and Harry checked it out rather than just accepting Billy's word.
  • Hijacking Cthulhu: Harry successfully summons the Erlking, a king of The Fair Folk and one of the most powerful beings in the series, and traps it in the summoning circle. Although he by no means has control of it, he is able to keep it from attacking him or leaving. Until someone bonks him on the head, that is.
  • Hope Bringer: Harry's dead father acts as this to his son, coming to him to help him after Harry needed to consult Lasciel to save the day and Cassius' death curse. On the former, he tells Harry that what he did doesn't make him a monster and he still has freewill to choose another path. On the later, it was a bad curse because everyone is alone when they die, but that doesn't mean he will be alone up to that moment and won't be alone after he does die.
  • Hope Spot: After realizing the scope of the problem he is dealing with, Harry calls in the Wardens, who respond promptly and provide him with much needed back-up. All five of them—who reveal that of the 200 or so Wardens the council had, a little more than 40 survived a recent, massive Red Court attack. They even go as far as to draft Harry into their ranks on the spot.
  • Humans Are Special: In a dark way. Mortal magic has one thing no other magic can do: Mortal magic can summon the worst of Eldritch Abominations, the Outsiders. The fact that some showed up to aid the Red Court attack on the Senior Council means there has to be a Council-level mage helping the Red Court.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Billy and Georgia's car (with navigation system) keeps telling Harry "The door is ajar."
    Butters: It gets kinda Zen after a while. Life is a dream. Time is a river. The door is a jar.
  • Idiot Ball: Luccio accuses Harry of holding it when after telling him about the heavy blow the Reds did to the Council and the attack on a civilian hospital, he won't join the Wardens. She then points out some in the Council will suspect him of being a traitor.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Lasciel's shadow makes it clear she could have killed Harry a dozen times since he actively used hellfire, such as making him not see on coming traffic and walk into it or think a building is on fire and jump out onto a non-existant fire escape.
  • I Have a Family:
    • Discussed with one of Grevane's victim-turned-zombies. He didn't have a family and Butters realizes that doesn't make what happened any less bad. A good man was still killed.
    • Also a possible motivation for Kumori saving the fatally-wounded outfit hitter, who begs the EM Ts on the scene to help him because he's got a little girl at home.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Waldo Butters, about 120lbs soaking wet, tried to become part of the US military but washed out of boot camp. Same with the police. He failed both times but still had the push to be stronger. This spark helped him push past his fear and control so that he could help Harry at crucial moments.
  • Indian Burial Ground: A location of many strong warriors.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Liver Spots, aka Cassius, Snakeboy-denarian really enjoys attacking Harry when he's down.
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Lasciel tricks Harry with the guise of Shiela.
  • Knowledge Broker: Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, is a great collector of knowledge and there is little she doesn't know. When Harry sought her wisdom Mab freely gives only what Harry's godmother knows. This is because she is acting as Lea's proxy. The price for knowledge beyond what Lea knows, however, isn't free. The payment is for Harry to accept the mantle of the Winter Knight. Harry refuses.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Mavra the Black Court vampire gets Harry to do her dirty work in finding the Word by blackmailing Murphy with evidence she committed an unjustifiable murder. Outraged she would bring in mortal authorities into the supernatural, Mavra notes back that Harry is White Council and not part of the attack, but Murphy is not and does not share the same umbrella. Mavra can use mortal authorities to destroy her. Harry was not amused by this.
    • Harry himself gets to take a turn with this. The Laws of Magic are very clear that turning people into undead is a big no-no. It's a bit fuzzier about turning a Tyrannosaurus Rex into a zombie.
  • Lovable Coward: Subverted by Butters. He admits it about himself, and Thomas points it out in a genial fashion, but despite his frequent screaming Harry realizes that Butters never actually does anything cowardly.
  • The Needs of the Many: The ritual found in Kremmler's book must not be completed. Captain Luccio and her Wardens, including Morgan, know this. If it goes down, bad things will happen. So they avert this trope when they find a group of kids caught near the ritual with rampaging zombies and undead spirits about and move them to a safe location. The fate of the world and these kids are more important.
  • Non-Human Undead: Also something of a plot point, as Harry exploits a loophole in the White Council's Necromancy prohibition by animating an animal as a zombie. Specifically, a freaking Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  • No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: Lampshaded, when Harry explains the basics of Necromancy and raising the dead to him, Waldo Butters immediately swears, "Jesus". Snarky as ever, Harry immediately quips back, "I kinda doubt they had anything to do with that one." Butters, being near-panic, overreacts and Harry has to explain that it was just a joke.
    • Especially humorous since Butters is Jewish.
  • Not Hyperbole: At the end, Harry gives Mavra the vampire quite the memorable speech about how if she ever screwed with Harry or his people, he would pick up every weapon available to him, and take her down permanently. As later books show, Harry was not exaggerating, and he was not fooling around.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • Harry has a minor one when he pauses to wonder why the Captain of the Wardens was answering phones and not some new guy or low rank person.
    • For once Harry's the one inflicting these. Specifically, it turns out this is the natural reaction of everyone when a zombie T. Rex is bearing down on them.
    • He gets one of his own (literally, 'Oh, Shit,') when Morgan comes at him with Unstoppable Rage, thinking Harry murdered Captain Luccio.
    • And another, when Harry braces himself perfectly for an oncoming attack, and Cowl magically punts him down the street quite casually.
      "This man could kill me."
  • Old Soldier: Captain Luccio and Morgan are described as such. In note to Morgan, Harry realized it wasn't him that the old Warlock-slaying man saw, but just another monster-in-waiting that would do unspeakable evils to many people and should be put down.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • The Red Court's recent action of kidnapping a senior Warden was so danger and threatening to the White Council, the Gatekeeper and Ancient Mai voted they go on the offensive to make the bastards pay. It was enough votes to make even the Merlin agree to go out.
    • Harry realizes how bad things are when first Mab is genuinely shocked to hear of Kemmler's disciples coming back into play. Then second when she, a being with difficult understanding the nuances of mortal morality, calls Kemmler a monster and madman.
  • Pants Positive Safety: Billy carried Harry's revolver in his pants when returning it to him. He made sure to empty all bullets from it before putting in there.
  • The Power of Rock: Or rather, the power of polka.
    "Polka will never die!"
  • The Promise: The fae have a firm belief in fulfilling promises and debts. Leaders are even obligated to fulfill the promises of subordinates if the subordinate is indisposed while on duty for the leader. For this reason when Harry calls his godmother, Mab stands in for Lea, who attempted a coup and failed. Mab has detained her but not killed her as she is still useful.
  • Raising the Steaks: A loophole in the Laws of Magic. Necromancy cannot be used on a dead person. Animals aren't included. So Harry raises a T-Rex in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When Harry told Luccio about Morgan hounding him and trying to push Harry into trying to kill him and then kill Harry in "self-defense" Luccio makes it clear not only didn't she know, but she is furious about this and believes Harry despite the little evidence he has.
  • Screw Destiny: When Corpsetaker and the ghoul attack Harry in an alley, he is rescued by Johnny Marcone and Ms. Gard. Gard (a Valkyrie) mentions Harry was fated to die there and their interference had changed his destiny, stating that there would be repercussions. Marcone's response? "What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?"
  • Signature Scent: Billy takes notice of the sulfur scent in the area after Harry used a Hellfire-infused attack against Cowl.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: It turns out that being an extremely desirable and seductive incubus isn't so great when you're desperately trying to hold down a minimum-wage job. At the start of the book Thomas has been fired - again - because the manager of the drive-through he used to work at followed him into the walk-in freezer and tried to have sex with him, just as the owner walked in. Also, Harry mentions him being assaulted by a female missionary when he simply answered the door to her - she left toothmarks.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Harry's charm.
    Cowl: "Again I will ask it. Give me your copy of the book."
    Harry: "And again do I answer thee. Bite me."
  • Spot The Thread: Harry is quick to deduce the Corpsetaker had taken over Luccio's body from leaving the "Warlock" alive, her tone of speaking, and then when Harry calls her by Corpsetaker, she reacts with anger and some fear.
  • Survival Mantra: POLKA WILL NEVER DIE!
  • Sweater Girl: When Harry meets Sheila, the clerk at the book store, he immediately notices how well she fills out a sweater.
  • This Is Not a Floor: Or rather That Is Not A Fire Escape. Lasciel uses this to prove to Harry that if she wanted, he would be dead by now.
  • To Absent Friends: While Harry has some qualms with a few Wardens, when one raises a glass to their recently fallen friends Harry joins them.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Um... yeah.
  • Unwitting Pawn: A few times near the end. In particular, Harry inadvertently does Cowl's work for him by calling up the Erlking (and, because Harry was trying to keep him trapped, all Cowl had to do was whack Harry in the back of the head to set the Erlking loose), then ends up leading Grevane to the Word of Kemmler, something Grevane could not have done on his own. He gets better, though.
  • Villain Ball:
    • This is the assessment of the Red Court when Harry learns they continued attacking the White Council into Faerie, which would incur the wrath of both Mab and Titania.
    • When Liver Spots aka Cassius, casts his Death Curse on Harry, he curses Harry to "die alone." Malcolm Dresden. Harry's dead father, notes this was a foolish curse because nothing is stopping Harry from being with people up to the moment of death, and while he must cross that threshold on his own, Harry won't be alone on the other side.
  • Voices Are Mental: Averted. When the Corpsetaker takes over Captain Luccio's body, the Warlock still speaks with Luccio's voice. Her tone and inflections, however, do not sync up with the good Captain.
  • Walk on Water: Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness can manifest and stand on water.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kumori just wants to end death so the Einsteins and Da Vincis don't die.
  • What Could Have Been: Butcher'd initially penciled this story in for book eight (see Executive Meddling), to follow after Proven Guilty. As originally planned, apprentice Molly would have filled Butters's role as a recipient of Harry's info-dumps about necromancy and the Wild Hunt.
  • The Wild Hunt: The ancient storm of the hunt led by a being who is a peer to Mab and Titania, the Erlking, comes into play. Stand in its path and death is nearly certain. Those who face it must run or, according to some, join it.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Through using Harry as his test subject, Butters comes to a theory as to why this is. Normal human cells, like in bone or skin, will make near-perfect copies of their cells when recovering. This is what makes scars and fracture lines. Wizards make perfect copies of their damaged parts, so some of the broken bones Harry had no longer have any fracture lines where they should be. How it happens and why are still a mystery but it is something Harry didn't know.
  • World War One: It was Kemmler's fault, apparently. He spent over a hundred years preparing the foundations of it.
  • World War II: Kemmler sided with Those Wacky Nazis to turn the war into his own personal undead playground. The White Council sided with the Allies, and were finally able to punch his ticket.
  • Would Hurt a Child/Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Erlking. Considering the original tale Goethe, there is the belief the great being is a slayer of children. Others think he is a protector of children. Without a direct answer, it would be hard to decide which way he falls.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Chicago is about to be overrun with zombies and a necromantic "dark god" who, ironically, intends to abolish death.

Blood RitesLiterature/The Dresden FilesProven Guilty
Day of the DragonLiterature of the 2000sDeadhouse Gates

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