Take one private investigator. Add magic and dump him in Chicago. Blur the line between the "normal" world and the world of the supernatural and you've got Harry Dresden, Wizard.
Jim Butcher's combination of detective and fantasy fiction is brilliant. The characters are the driving force of this series, starring the slightly random and haphazard wizard Harry Dresden and supported by a miriad of others, both good and bad. Dresden's cop friend, Lt. Murphy, his off-and-on girlfriend, Susan the reporter, Bob the talking skull, the High Council (judge, jury, and executioner of all things magic-related), and of course, Dresden's clients - and the foes he fights along the way to getting his paycheck.
This series is written in a first-person narrative from Dresden's viewpoint, giving the entire story a conversational, up-close-and-personal feel to the action and the suspense. When Dresden hurts, you feel it. When he's angry, you're caught up in his anger in a way the usual third-person narrative of most fantasy fiction would never be able to achieve. Everything is more intense with you inside Dresden's mind, until you feel as though you are right there with him, and he's narrating your own story instead.
If that wasn't enough, Butcher also has an amazing attention to detail. Even through Dresden's own eyes, the narration is filled with rich descriptions of the world around him, in a way that seems perfectly natural and flowing - not forced or out of character like some other authors' writing. Instead, the whole series flows effortlessly from one book to the next, and within the books, each scene flows as well, making it even more addicting to read.
Being detective fiction at the core, each book in The Dresden Files also has the sudden twist at the end - and yet, Butcher seems to have mastered this, as well. No matter how good you think you are at preemptively solving the case, Butcher has one last ace to throw at you - and it doesn't come out of left field. As soon as you read it, you feel silly for not having expected that very thing to happen, because it "just makes so much sense! Of course that's what happened! But... why didn't I think of that?"
It's this suspenseful, intense story with a compelling narrator that takes you charging right up to the very end that makes this series so unbelievably great. Each book reveals a little more about Dresden himself, as well as his friends and enemies, and yet maintains the unique personality and individuality of each one - a tough trick for a long series and an absolute must for any successful one.
Storm Front is the first in this shocking tale of murder and magic. Dresden must go up against a wizard wielding black magic - the darkest and most addicting stuff of the supernatural. If he doesn't, he will die. But if he does, the High Council will hunt him down and kill him. Dresden is, to put it mildly, in a bit of a bind... and every step he takes only tightens the ropes twirling around him.
Amazon.com has the entire series ready to ship. Ebooks are available from Barnes & Noble.com. For further information on The Dresden Files or any of Jim Butcher's other series, head over to his official website. Grace A. Dow Library of Midland has most of the books in the series as well, if you'd prefer to borrow them.
Also, I encourage you to watch SciFi's 1 season of their take on The Dresden Files. Be warned, the TV show is not like the books, so if you watch them expecting to see them follow the series to the letter, think again. The episodes were written separately from the series, so the detective puzzles Dresden faces in the TV show are different from the books. Also, a few character changes were made. Some were necessary (for example, Bob's character in the books would have been difficult to pull off successfully on television); others, like Bianca, were changed for reasons unknown to me. Personally, I can appreciate both stories as individually compelling. However, in the long run, I will side with the books. They came first, they are true to the real characters, and they are most assuredly able to stand up to any scrutiny they come under.
Trivia Question: What is the name of Dresden's special vision and why is he so cautious about using it?