Death Masks is the 5th book in the Dresden Files series, but only the 2nd book that I thought was awesome. The other is Fool Moon. It starts out a little aggravating, since there is still too much emphasis on vampires for my taste. There is a funny scene with Harry Dresden to be interviewed on a talk show that he dreads (It’s the only way he can talk to someone he needs to meet). He is waylaid by a vampire of the Red Court demanding a duel. It’s not an offer Dresden can refuse. He also quickly has an encounter with his ex-girlfriend Susan who left after being infected by the vampires.

Harry receives a request for help from an official sent from the Vatican to retrieve the stolen shroud of Turin, which is believed to be in Chicago. If you’ve read the books or other reviews here, you may know Harry cannot afford to turn down cases ever due to finances. He accepts despite the Knights’ of the Holy Cross attempt to dissuade him from the course. I say knights, because Michael has two associates who show up to save Harry from demons set on stopping Harry’s interference. The oldest knight, Shiro, is Asian with experience in martial arts and a sword cane. Sanya is a newish recruit from Russia with an arsenal, Kevlar suit, and attitude, besides the usual glowing sword.

Harry does participate in a duel against the vampire warrior. But through most of the novel, Harry’s nemesis is the group the Denarians, consisting of demon minions, gunmen, and at the end, the ringleader Nicodemus (an ancient foe, partner to Fallen angels, little is known about him). The thread of the story following the knights and Nicodemus is intriguing. It hints at more to come. I hope there will be more knowledge of Nicodemus’s past to go with it.

Susan helps Dresden with the case, and her situation is a little mysterious. She is fighting the vampire venom, mostly just keeping it at bay. But she has joined an organization which is dedicated to undermining the vampires and to supporting people with problems similar to hers.

There is a sense that Harry is at a possible turning point. He is offered a chance to join the Denarians and stop living his desperate life, but he also becomes a caretaker of one of the swords, and Sanya is living proof that people can change.

The crime lord Marcone makes an appearance with his usual flair. He will be a character to watch for as well. Again, an indication that all is not black and white.