Since I’m playing in a Dresden Files game, I thought I’d read the first Dresden Files book. I’m a fan of underworld/alternateworld fiction generally, and also a fan of hard-boiled and other detective fiction. This more-or-less did the numbers you expect from both of those genres. Wizards: check! Femme fatale: check! Left-field beatings to show detective progress: check! Dark side of Sexy Sexy Vampires: check! Two seemingly unconnected plots which resolve together: check!
As novels go, it seemed perfectly adequate, but totally generic. Sure, there are individually-identifiable features, but I felt de ja vu virtually every page.
I guess if that’s what you want, it’s not a bad way to spend your time. However, I’ve just come off reading The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy; a crime novel which takes those same kind of criminal clichés and tells this incredibly engaging and challenging story that interrogates genre assumptions, populated by people that feel unique, distinct and real. Going from that to this required a major gear-shift.
For my money, I think that the early ‘Anita Blake’ books are probably this, done better. Of course, they devolve into pathetic horror-themed pornography after a half-dozen books, but the early books have a far more dynamic protagonist, with a far more complex relationship with their far more complex world. Which is not to say that, even then, those books are really “any good” – clearly they too would fail utterly on the late-Ellroy scale of quality.
And having said all that, I can imagine quite contentedly spending an afternoon each weekend for the next little while knocking off another Harry Dresden adventure without undue difficulty or complaint.