In 1917, Archibald Talbot, a British officer serving in Cairo, bullied his way past the line outside a cafe and demanded that some people who appeared to be locals leave their table so that he could be served. Two weeks later, he disappeared, and was not seen again until his mummified corpse appeared in the British Museum three years later.
Fast forward to the present, and Harry Dresden, wizard PI, is approached by a police officer from Boone Hill, Missouri. Two siblings, Carl and Sarah Talbot, just died highly suspicious deaths that he believes might be supernaturally related, and Dresden is asked to investigate. After a quick consultation with Bob, Dresden realizes that he has to solve this case fast.
Carl and Sarah weren't the first people in their family to die suspiciously, and they won't be the last. Every descendant of Archibald Talbot has died in an unusual and possibly supernaturally-related way for almost a century. And unless Dresden hurries, Carl and Sarah's five siblings will be next.
Tropes appearing in Ghoul Goblin include:
- Asshole Victim: Archibald Talbot. Most of his descendants probably didn't deserve to share his fate, though.
- Bittersweet Ending: Dresden is able to defeat the ghoul and the goblin, and break the curse, but only two of the Talbots are still alive.
- Blood Sport: The ghoul and the goblin could have wiped out the Talbots long before Dresden arrived, but they had decided to turn killing them into a sport as to who could kill the most, which required them to hunt them down one at a time from eldest to youngest.
- Dirty Cop: The sheriff of Boon Hill is described as a "go along to get along" sort of officer, who puts more stock in town politics than in justice or the law. He spends the majority of the story being a pain in Harry's ass and obstructing his efforts. Later on Harry is merely standing nearby when one of the Talbots is run down by a big truck, and for some reason the sheriff decides to arrest him for it.
- Disproportionate Retribution. Major Talbot may have been a colossal jerk, but that didn't justify sentencing his entire bloodline to be hunted down and killed.
- Foreshadowing: Harry's first scene has him fighting something resembling the Creature From the Black Lagoon in Lake Michigan - possibly a Fomor.
- Hereditary Curse: The Talbots are cursed to always be the priority target of any hostile supernatural being to cross their path.
- Imperfect Ritual: Joseph Talbot designed supernatural defenses for his mansion based upon every bit of lore he could dig up. Apart from some of that lore being inaccurate, he didn't have the ability to properly charge those defenses with magical energy to make them work. Harry does, and this protects the remaining Talbots.
- Series Continuity Error: In Changes, which happens after Ghoul Goblin, Harry states that he's never seen a goblin beforenote . However, in Ghoul Goblin Harry interacts with a goblin.