The reviews of this book describe it as hard boiled detective meets wizard, and they hit the nail right on the head with that one.
The private detective that is the protagonist in these stories is one Harry Dresden, professional wizard. Harry is a wizard in modern times, so most people don’t take him seriously, but the Chicago PD’s Special Investigations unit hires him as a contractor to help them investigate the more “special” crimes. His contact within the PD is one Lt. Karrin Murphy who Harry has a strong but complex friendship with.
In this book Harry is confronted with a murder who is using very dark magic to literally tear people’s hearts from their chests. Harry must walk a thin line by determining who and how this person is committing these crimes without getting in trouble with the wizard’s counsel himself, as he is already in serious trouble with them for an undisclosed previous incident.
What really sets this book apart from other stories I have read concerning wizards, beyond the fact that Harry is a private detective is the fact that magic in this universe is very based on the senses and that the words a wizard speaks when casting a spell is merely to help them focus on project the words. When Harry is brewing potions (with the help of a “spirit of intellect” that inhabits a skull) he must add ingredients for each sense as well as to engage the mind and the spirit. These potions are made with very mundane items, which I think serves to make them more believable. Harry also uses ancient latin words to help him cast spells, but in this world one could use even nonsense words to help focus the spells.
Overall, Harry is a very relatable character in the fact that he has to deal with very real problems, such as dating and being able to pay his bills. The character also says what he is thinking and offers insight into other’s thoughts when he interacts with them. This really adds a simplicity and makes for a great casual read.