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Book #13 in The Dresden Files.

When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends -- and his own soul -- Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic...

Tropes associated with Ghost Story:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Sir Stuart uses a large gun to blast a wraith to oblivion. Harry finds out that, much like everything else a ghost can do, it is powered by memory. Stuart makes a great effort to recover that energy each time it is used. Harry finds out later that he can use magic again if it is powered by his memories of using magic. However, if Harry does not recover that energy he himself will eventually dissipate since, as a ghost, Harry is made of nothing ELSE but memory. Harry, being Harry, realizes this just a bit too late.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Harry finally realises that Molly's feelings for him go beyond a mere crush. He also feels sorry that he cannot reciprocate them.
  • An Astral Projection Not a Ghost: Ironically, one of the twists of Ghost Story. Maybe. the things that Harry experienced, such as the "between", were most certainly real, and almost certainly restricted to ghosts.
  • Back From the Dead: Thanks to Mab, Demonreach, Uriel, and the efforts of a certain "parasite", Harry is brought back at the end.
  • Badass Normal: Daniel Carpenter takes after both of his parents in the badass department, knife fighting with a supernaturally fast warlock.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Molly engages the Corpsetaker in a mental battle in order to rescue Waldo Butters, whose body Corpsetaker has stolen. Then Corpsetaker tried to steal Molly's body in turn and is almost successful; the battle itself is represented as an actual battlefield, with Molly waging her end of things from a mental copy of the bridge of the Enterprise. Molly plays a scorched earth policy to delay Corpsetaker, and almost suicides to prevent Corpsetaker from winning - until Harry convinces her to call for help, at which point Mort hits Corpsetaker point-blank with a swarm of very pissed-off spirits.
  • Beard of Sorrow: At the very end we find out that Thomas has one as well, because of Harry's death in Changes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mortimer Lindquist and his wraiths are this for Molly.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Break the Cutie: Molly. Her overt madness is a Batman Gambit to scare away some of the nastier critters lurking around Chicago, but helping Harry arrange his own murder and then being as sensitive as she is at the battle of Chichen Itza - and close proximity to the spell that wiped out the Red Court - seriously hurt her, which is not being helped by Lea's "Neitzsche and Darwin were Pussies" brand of magical training.
  • Broken Bird: Molly.
  • Cast From Hit Points: It is revealed that just about every ability a ghost can have (other than simply existing and traveling) is fueled by memory. Ghosts are composed of the memories of the person they were before. Use up all the memories and it is bye-bye. Harry comes dangerously close to this without realizing it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Corpsetaker does this to Mortimer Lindquist, suspending him over a writhing mass of wraiths and then dipping him in ever so slowly for an ever-increasing amount of time.
  • Creepy Child: Inez, the spirit of a little girl in the Graceland cemetery who Harry meets. She is generally friendlier and more polite than most versions of creepy kids, but she is still unsettling, not the least because she died a couple of centuries ago and has an extensive amount of knowledge about spirits and shades, and is convinced by long experience that Harry will become "a monster."
    • It is implied that Inez is actually Mab, talking through a conduit because she couldn't come in person, what with being occupied as part of Harry's life support on Demonreach.
    • Also the ghost children who love to "play" with living children down by the river.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Every spirit in Ghost Story pretty much can only communicate this way. At one point Harry runs into an entity named Eternal Silence, who attempts to explain things to Harry in a straightforward manner. Doing so results in a paragraph of booming disconnected sentences, and the effect makes Harry's incorporeal body explode into a "Dresden-colored mist," so there is some pretty good reasons for this. As with Inez, it's implied that the Eternal Silence is actually Demonreach.
  • Deader Than Dead: The Corpsetaker after Harry allows her personal supply of wraiths to assault and consume her. Harry reports that the last sound he hears of her is replaced by the sound of a southbound train.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Inverted: Harry is the dead person in question.
  • Dead to Begin With: The whole premise.
  • Deconstruction: This book deconstructs Harry's genocide of the Red Court in the previous book. They were a major political and financial power, and now that they've suddenly disappeared, there is a vacuum ready to be filled by new enemies.
    • Molly confirms this when talking to Harry's spirit. It turns out that there were numerous threats which had previously given Chicago a wide berth, based purely on the reputation of its resident wizard. Now that he's gone, the city's pretty much going to hell. Molly has been attempting to deliberately set herself up as The Dreaded through the persona of the Rag Lady, but it's a long, slow process, and the emotional toll it's taking on her is intense.
  • Dumb Muscle: While certainly Badass during his fight with Aristedes the sorcerer, Daniel Carpenter displays shades of this during his first appearance in Ghost Story, blurting out in his over-enthusiastic and dour-but-righteous zeal that Murphy has two of the Swords of the Cross and that they should be used. The problem with this is that there is a member of the White Court in the room, who had no idea that Murphy had the Swords in the first place. The vamp attempts to use this information to blackmail Murphy into giving up the swords, leading to a swift and brutal rebuttal.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Dresden meets an Angel of Death standing over Father Forthill. She's pleasant enough and is there to act as a soul's bodyguard on its final journey. She's even nice enough to ignore Dresden's various threats since, Dresden being Dresden and all, he doesn't realize until halfway through the conversation that she could utterly destroy him with a passing thought.
  • Disney Death: Harry, apparently.
  • Enemy Without: Evil Bob.
  • Fun with Acronyms: In Ghost Story Harry's friends have formed the Better Future Society it could have been a coincidence but then Butters mentions that he wanted to name it the Better Future Group for the sake of the Acronym
  • Genre Blindness: Played with in Ghost Story. Harry's ghost is fighting Corpsetaker's ghost, and she keeps trying to gloat at Harry, only for him to keep interrupting her with harder and harder spells. He mocks her for doing so, then he's reminded that as a ghost, his spells are Cast From Hit Points, and Corpsetaker has a lot more energy to spare than he does. In addition to her ego, she was simply expecting him to weaken himself attacking her.
  • Ghostapo: Nazi-dressed Evil Bob commands a spirit realm shaped like the Nazi defenses on the beaches of D-Day, patrolled by werewolf Nazi soldiers called hexenwulfen.
  • Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: Justine invokes this in order to get Thomas to feed on her at the end.
  • Guilt Complex: Harry also spends Ghost Story feeling guilty about the mess he's made of the whole world, and particularly the lives of his friends and loved ones, by exterminating the Red Court (which he's not exactly wrong to feel guilty about). He feels particularly guilty about Molly, for not training her well enough to survive on her own, for setting a bad example by crossing the line when he became the Winter Knight, and especially for exposing her highly tuned psychic senses to the battle at Chichen Izta and the giant curse that ended it. He also feels like crap for making her help him kill himself, once he remembers. And then about Thomas, for not telling him about it.
  • He's Just Hiding: Murphy refused to accept Harry's death, including after she met his ghost, because she had never seen a body. When he shows up as a ghost, she refuses to believe it's really him, even after getting his identity confirmed by Mortimer the ectomancer and Molly's Sight, all because she doesn't want to admit that he's dead.
    • To be fair, in the end, Murphy's point about the body was valid as it was snatched up and preserved by Mab and Demonreach. Thus, technically speaking, Harry was never exactly dead in the first place.
  • Heel Realization: Midway through the novel, Harry comes to this realization when he considers the consequences of his actions in Changes and the extent which he went to in order to stop his enemies and save those he loved - and that in doing so, he became what he fought. But this is inverted later when he rejects Evil Bob's We Can Rule Together offer, realizing that one bad choice at the end of a lifetime of fighting evil does not make him evil.
  • Heroic BSOD: In Ghost Story, it is obvious that this has happened to Murph, Molly, and Thomas after Harry's death.
  • Heroic Fatigue: Played with in Ghost Story: Being dead makes all the pain and exhaustion go away. Then, later, Harry manifests and enjoys the sensation of pain as a sensation of being alive. However, Harry is using his own memories to fuel his limited magic and later manifestation, to the point that there is not enough of Harry left to even remain as a ghost by the time he is done. Uriel and Mab later set things right. Well, right-ish.
  • Idiot Ball: Harry realizes he was holding it during a specific event near the end of Changes: letting Molly, a mentally sensitive apprentice who's mostly untrained in combat, join him in retrieving Maggie. The mass of emotions from the battle came dangerously close to driving her insane, and as of Ghost Story, she's a lot more paranoid and broken than she used to be.
  • Impostor Exposing Test: Murphy has Mort cut himself in Ghost Story before inviting him inside. A lot of supernatural beings that require an invitation to enter a building will bleed ectoplasmic goo rather than blood. Harry notes that this method is far from foolproof.
    • Earlier in the series, she pulls one on Harry. After being mindraped by a ghost taking Dresden's form in a previous book, when he shows up at her house unannounced, she forces him to walk through her threshold uninvited, which would have revealed if any illusion was being used.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: In Ghost Story, Bob now has access to the internet. He declares, almost giddy, "It's like ninety-percent porn!"
  • Ironic Echo: One notable example, showing just how bad things have gotten. When we first see Harry trying to teach Molly about shielding spells, it's with her younger brothers and sisters throwing snowballs at her. Her shield fails, she's pelted with snow, and it's a hilarious and heartwarming moment. Cut to Ghost Story, and she's again practicing shields. Only this time, it's Leanansidhe throwing hunks of ice like a major league pitcher, and Molly's as far from her warm, safe, loving home as you get.
  • The Kid With the Leash: Butters winds up holding Bob's leash by the end, and bob is happy to serve as his combination magical tutor and genie-in-a-skull.
  • Kill It with Fire: In Ghost Story, Harry points out that the reason he uses fire is because it is universally useful. Even intangibles like ghosts recoil from fire as they have a hard time separating their memory of fire and flame from their current existence. Harry also points out that even though something might be invulnerable to death from burning, they almost always still feel pain from it and can be stalled with it.

 Harry: "Fire burns."

  • Late Arrival Spoiler: Present in some of the later books, but Ghost Story takes this to new heights: it is impossible to discuss its plot (Who Dunnit to Me?) without giving away the last few pages of Changes.
  • Must Make Amends: Harry Dresden to an extent when he realises the effects of his actions. Easier said than done since he happens to be dead.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Much of Ghost Story consists of this sort of realization regarding his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in Changes.
  • Nervous Wreck: Molly Carpenter becomes one in Ghost Story, following Harry's apparent death in the previous book and her own attempt to fill in his shoes as the magic defender of Chicago.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: By the end of the Changes/Ghost Story arc, you would be hard pressed to find anything about Harry's day-to-day life that has not irrevocably, well, changed.
  • Not Quite Dead: Harry, as it turns out, at the end of Ghost Story. His soul had just been separated from his body while said vessel was being kept alive by Mab, Demonreach, and a certain "parasite".
  • Oh Crap: In the first couple chapters of Ghost Story, Harry has a moment where he realizes that, as a ghost, he has no magic. As he's being attacked by a wraith.
    • In the last chapter, Harry does it again when he wakes up, alive... in Mab's lap. But then Uriel passes on his advice...
  • Pound of Flesh Twist: Harry ultimately realizes that, although he IS the Winter Knight, Mab still doesn't have any ACTUAL power over him, allowing him to retain his free will and enabling him to determine HOW or even IF he follows Mab's orders.
  • Schedule Slip: Ghost Story was originally scheduled for release in April 2011, before being delayed until July 2011.

 Said Jim (paraphrased): “It came down to, readers could either get a half-assed story in April, or a full-assed one in July!”

  • Shut UP, Hannibal: There are two significant instances of this: first, when Harry tells Evil Bob to take his We Can Rule Together offer and shove it because he will never belong to the Dark Side, and second, when Harry tells off Mab herself at the end, vowing that he is not hers and will decide if, when, and how he carries out her orders.
  • Spot the Thread: In Ghost Story, to sneak into the den of a sorcerer and rescue his band of thieving street urchins, Butters and Daniel Carpenter disguise themselves as Wardens in order to put the sorcerer off his guard. It very nearly works... until the sorcerer points out that neither of them carries the trademark enchanted swords a Warden usually has. Subverted In that because Luccio is incapable of making new swords none of the Wardens since Harry have swords. But because the swords are so associated with the Wardens Baldy wouldn't have known anyway and Butters big mistake was hesitating when he could have made up a believable story.
  • Spring Is Late: Chicago sees regular snowfall well into May due to the fact that Queen Mab herself is in the city, keeping Harry's body warm.
  • Stealth Pun: Flickum Bicus is actually kinda subtle unless you regularly flick your bic. Ghost Story outright explains this one, though: when Harry was training under Justin DuMorne, he tried to cheat at a magical fire-lighting test with a lighter, causing Justin to remark "You won't always be able to flick your Bic." When Harry finally does light the candle with magic, he uses "Flickum Bicus" as the invocation as a nod to Justin's lecture.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Grenades!" I ordered, in a firm and manly tone that did not sound at all like a panicked fourteen-year-old.

 Willie let out a high-pitched scream as we narrowly avoided being smashed by a truck.

Seriously. It was her. Nobody can prove otherwise.

  • Take Up My Sword: A straight example occurs in Ghost Story, when the gravely-wounded spirit of Sir Stuart throws Harry his gun. Harry initially thinks he's been given a powerful one-use weapon, but later figures out that it is actually a symbol of Sir Stuart's authority that allows Harry to rally Mort's spirit friends and take on Sir Stuart's former position as their commander, leading them into battle to rescue Mort.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: An interesting version in Ghost Story: Harry the ghost doesn't need to sleep, but has to retreat to his grave lest the sun wash him away. While there, with nothing else to do, he ends up recalling past memories with picture perfect clarity (an explicit power of sentient ghosts), and is only jostled from them when in turns out Lea has been watching them along with him. It's never explicitly stated how this happens, and Harry naturally finds the constant interruption annoying.
  • Teleport Spam: Ghosts who know how to "vanish" (which is essentially ghostly teleportation) use this when they fight. Harry and the Corpsetaker have a magical duel while teleporting around a cavern, including teleporting inside solid structures like walls to duke it out.
  • Terror Hero: Molly becomes a Type 4 deliberately to try to impose order in the city.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: This is the thirteenth book in the series, and Harry is dead. Well, until the end. Or, depending on your point of view, he never was dead in the first place.
  • Training From Hell: How Lea trains Molly after Harry's death. She even calls a pack of mid-level Fomor mooks against an exhausted and mal-nourished Molly and expects her to handle it. Then, when Harry predictably intervenes, she reveals that she used that particular sequence to train them BOTH at the same time. The Fae are NOT to be taken lightly.
    • After this episode, Harry begrudgingly admits that she might have a point and that, by going relatively easy, he might not have done the best job of preparing Molly for just what kinds of trauma and hardship she'll naturally be exposed to as a wizard, especially as a psychic sensitive.
  • Unfinished Business: Ghost Story. Harry finding out who killed him is actually not that important. Saving his friends one last time might not have been that important either; the book's Big Bad quite possibly would have been stopped without Harry's intervention. However, it was important to him that he make sure his loved ones were OK and say goodbye properly to Molly. And he had to go through the entire book to put Uriel's scale-balancing advice in the proper context.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Happens once again, when it turns out that Harry arranged for his own death with Kincaid before accepting the mantle of the Winter Knight, then had Molly erase his memory of it.
  • We Can Rule Together: Evil Bob makes this offer to Harry during their battle, suggesting a master-apprentice sort of relationship. Harry being Harry, he mocks it out of hand -- then he flat-out rejects it, having come to the inverse of his earlier Heel Realization.
  • Wham! Line: "They've been like that ever since they killed you."
  • Who Dunnit to Me?: The job that Captain Jack from "between" sends Ghost Harry to find out in Ghost Story.
  • You Can See Me?: It comes as a surprise to Dresden that Butters and Lea can see him. He's also surprised when he comes across someone else who can hear him.
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