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Dead Man's Hand  By  cover art

Dead Man's Hand

By: James J. Butcher
Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of his renowned father, James J. Butcher’s debut novel is a brilliant urban fantasy about a young man who must throw out the magical rule book to solve the murder of his former mentor.

On the streets of Boston, the world is divided into the ordinary Usuals, and the paranormal Unorthodox. And in the Department of Unorthodox Affairs, the Auditors are the magical elite, government-sanctioned witches with spells at their command and all the power and prestige that comes with it. Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby is…not one of those witches.

After flunking out of the Auditor training program and being dismissed as “not Department material,” Grimsby tried to resign himself to life as a mediocre witch. But he can’t help hoping he’ll somehow, someway, get another chance to prove his skill. That opportunity comes with a price when his former mentor, aka the most dangerous witch alive, is murdered down the street from where he works, and Grimsby is the Auditors’ number one suspect.

Proving his innocence will require more than a little legwork, and after forming a strange alliance with the retired legend known as the Huntsman and a mysterious being from Elsewhere, Grimsby is abruptly thrown into a life of adventure, whether he wants it or not. Now all he has to do is find the real killer, avoid the Auditors on his trail, and most importantly, stay alive.

©2022 James J. Butcher (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Woot! Get set for a wild ride! Debut author James J. Butcher hits one out of the ballpark. Nonstop action in this character-driven urban fantasy that is both laugh-out-loud and terrifying—sometimes at the same time.”—Patricia Briggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author 

“Clear your schedule. You won’t want to put this down. With awkward heroes, convincing villains, and reluctant deadly mentors, James J Butcher’s Dead Man’s Hand is a gem. Uneven alliances evolving into comrade-in-arms, personal growth, and, most important to me, inventive world building all make Dead Man’s Hand an entirely enjoyable read that proves once more that snark is indeed a deadly weapon. Read it. You will not be disappointed. I eagerly await the sequel.”—Kim Harrison, #1 New York Times bestselling author 

“Dead Man's Hand is splendid, a spectacular debut novel and the best book I’ve read in years. James J. Butcher is an outstanding storyteller and I can’t wait to read what he comes up with next.”—Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author  

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Narrator is generic big shoes to fill

Its difficult to determine if this is any good. When it comes to the audible format you live and die by your narrator. The narrator here is very generic ( I have heard him on other books and all are just marginal with little varriation on voices) . The story seemed slow to develop. To note the author had some big shoes to fill so that was going to be a difficult from the start. As for narrators the authors i believed got it right are : Aaronovitch, Jacka, Rowling(Fry), and of course Your father. Its not fair to compare you to your father but with thr name comes the expectations , fair or not.

8 people found this helpful

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Quality Urban Fantasy

I want to start by saying I've listened to all the Dresden novels and am a huge fan. When I heard James was releasing a book a was a little skeptical. While there are a few instances of repeated dialog, and obvious attempts to separate his story from his father's, this was a thoroughly enjoyable story. The characters were distinct, the world was fleshed out and the overall story was distinct. I have no doubt I would have bought this book (and future ones) even if the author had no connection to an author I already enjoy. I really enjoyed what the author created and look forward to more installments.

5 people found this helpful

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excellent!! great writing runs in the family!!

I hope you write more, more, more! a frantic " page turner" new favorite!

3 people found this helpful

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loved it

like his father Jim excellently written and well thought out story couldn't poke a hole in it if I tried. well done sir keep it up.

2 people found this helpful

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First novel!

Definitely a good first installment. Definitely more fleshed out than his dad’s first book but not as well written and not as much fun. I had a hard time with the “slapping runes” on everything. I thought they were almost like stickers at first.

2 people found this helpful

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A Resounding... Eh.

Dead Man's Hand certainly had potential sadly it just didn't grasp me. The plot is fairly predictable and the characters don't feel as though they have much life to them, in large part due to the performance not solely the writing. This story is definitely a slow burn in the beginning and I can see how it could make some readers lose interest fairly quick. I came into this story intending to give it a fair shot and admittedly it's not all bad there are moments that really make me think that this series could be really good. For instance I find the setting to be of interest, a government controlled agency restricting the use of magic, investing supernatural crimes and all this is public knowledge. I can't help but find that interesting. I truly do hope this series gets a chance to find it's footing. All in all not bad Butcher's first time out.

2 people found this helpful

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so you wanna be a writer...

there's a guy out there his name was Joe hill. Joe hillegard. Joe filigard king. yeah that king. if you saw a black phone you know who Joe Hill is. maybe you don't read the credits but you actually knows what Joe Hill is without knowing who Joe is if he saw in the Tall Grass you're not going to Joe Hill is. if you saw NOS4A2, you actually know who Joe Hill is. but do you know who Joe Hill is? see that's the really good question cuz a lot of people don't know who Joe Hill is. but when they see his picture they figure it out because he looks like the much younger version of the old man. and the Old Man's last name is also King. the thing is this ship off the old block determined not to be a chip off the old block. he does have a writing style that's all its own he does have a writing style that's heavily influenced by a lot of other people. from Tom savini to Ray Bradbury to the old man. his stuff is exciting to read it has a familiar flavor to it and yet it's something completely different. I'm afraid dead man's hand is not at the same caliber and it's from the same cut of cloth but it's the pieces on The Cutting Room floor that have been walked on and not quite what you want and a good fit.

a previous interviewer said big shoes to fill. well that is true unless you decide to wear your own shoes. if you decide to wear and walk in your own shoes you can choose your own path. you can draw from your own influences and yes one of those major influences can absolutely positively be the old man. but the old man on a dare brought a formula book that ended up being a 20 book series promise with no failures to date. every fan of one of the books is a fan of all of the books.

dead man's hand has an interesting beginning and that's where it ends. you lose me on the use of the word which. it feels forced it feels like taking a different tack than Dad took even if I'd never read any of Dad's books it would feel forced almost like trying too hard to be different. the stuff about low-level which employment being relegated the birthday parties and dumb stuff like that it doesn't even work well as a Potter reference, which it's not but that would have been a step up cheesy and name dropping goat would be. to be honest I don't know how I found myself in the the 30 chapter range when I just started the book yesterday but realizing that I was listening too far ahead it didn't feel like the story had advanced in any way I skipped and listen to the epilogue epilogue was fairly entertaining and interesting and intriguing but if the epilogue is going to be what it was and then we're going to fall back into the same discussion of which is and powers and what candy can't be done and things like that that and and and it doesn't improve any the pace doesn't get better the development best doesn't get better and the narrator doesn't get fired then I'm afraid this is going to be my last James J. book.


I know to the author who may or may not read these reviews. James or you already called Jim, this was not a bad first effort but it wasn't a good first effort either. a previous review said you live and die by your narrator. that is mostly true. let's come back to those shoes again. I need you to step out of your Dad's shoes don't publish another book under the name butcher. whatever your middle name is make make your pen name out of it can't think you could think of how to do that or you maybe your middle name is not a good find a pen name find a pen name publish some short stories write some articles walk around in your own shoes and get out of Dad's shadow. he has a flavor he has a style he has a flare he has a subject matter get out of his boat. if you really want to write similar stuff to Dad and call Wizards witches instead I got to tell you this a dumb idea. if you want to write a murder mystery than oh my goodness write that murder mystery you want to write a supernatural Urban Thriller oh please write that write that but get out of that shoes and out of Dad's shadow off of Dad's deck out of his boat. you got to find your own way brother you got to find your own way

2 people found this helpful

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Just awful...

Was excited for this one. But I quit after 2.5 hours. Wow was this bad. Butcher attempts humor, and it falls harder than flat. It's so dated and lame. The characters are a dud. The story and mystery were nothing intriguing. The first 2 hours were beyond painful. And finally the narrator is distractingly bad. He's the poor man's Wil Wheaton - ouch.

2 people found this helpful

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I want to be honest but not hurtful

I am a huge Dresden Files fan, have listened to each book many times. James is not Jim, and I wish he either would have published a book of completely different genre or gone all in without changing good things trying to be just a little different. The changes don’t work… for example, instead of wizards and warlocks everyone that uses magic is called a witch by James. Instead of using the magical mechanics of Dresden Files, we have really odd and unexplained mechanics that are so unfamiliar (nothing like those I’ve ever come across in any other book, role playing game or movie or even occult text or experience) that I just couldn’t relate.

That brings me to the main character… completely weak and uninteresting… I do usually appreciate the underdog but this guy isn’t going anywhere and I don’t get him… no repressed sexuality but completely asexual, no confidence, a string of past failures but seriously no drive to do better, and absolutely no humor to his quick wit… just obvious or obnoxiously lame comebacks I would expect from someone who doesn’t understand people or life. My 11 year old has a deeper perception of what is going on than the main protagonist.

Then there’s the story and world building… lame and virtually nonexistent. I listened to the entire story 3 times seeing if I missed something… nope. The world feels dystopian and boring and like a black hole of nothing intriguing. Slow burn beginning was a phrase another reviewer gave and I have to laugh… there was no burn, by the time you get to action my attention span was shot and I was just shaking my head as I felt like the magical abilities of the protagonist were pathetically less interesting than my own in real life. Harry Potter in Book 1 could do more than this guy… sigh, I got bored, each time I listened to the book.

Then there’s the writing style… sigh, I really hate to say it, but its like Jim’s with the colorful metaphors but instead ones which made sense, at least half of them felt forced… as if James just doesn’t think in descriptive ways but wanted to write as though he does, or write like his father does. It falls flat; definitely humorless throughout with frequent ill-placed non-contextually appropriate metaphorical descriptions. Reminded me a bit of rrmartin’s writing style… too many words and descriptions of things that don’t matter.

My suggestion to James… abandon this book series, it sucks. Instead, since it appears you like the Dresden Files genre, go all in… use the existing magic mechanics and lore and build upon the universe your father has already built. Create new characters for it, make your own stories but work in sync with your father to create an epic world and set of stories that movies will be created about and remembered for generations. Since you are family this is doable and would kick ass. If that’s not the direction you want to go, then abandon the modern day magical mystery horror genre. Your father already has that covered, and he has done awesome because he drew upon myths, occult practices, and cultural relevance to create a world and characters that anything less researched will fail against. Of course thats just my opinion, and who am I… just a book reviewer.

Sorry if this came across as harsh… I just want to be authentic so that others can benefit from my experience.

1 person found this helpful

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really good!!

I had zero expectations going into listening to this book, but it's great! The narrator did a great job with the voices. James did a great job writing, it wasn't all world and character building, there was a super cohesive plot that advanced as the book went on. Very Well done, James.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark Chitty
  • 11-07-22

An interesting novel, and promising series

I quite enjoyed Dead Man's Hand by the end, though it took a while to really get going and for Butcher to building the world and characters. I liked Grimsby, our main character, and he has an interesting history that helped drive the plot forward. World building was done slowly and steadily and reminded me very much of the way the early Dresden books were done. Very interested to see where he takes this series from here.

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  • willg
  • 10-22-22

ok but frustrating

so the story is fun and the magic is good....

BUT the main character is insufferable. Makes Incompetent decisions, is constantly whining while trying to be funny and has the worst name I've ever heard. Very irritating when he opens his mouth.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-21-22

good , little uneven but very promising first book

good , little uneven but very promising first book enjoyed it. if you enjoy his dad's work you will probably like this.

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  • Stuart renz
  • 11-19-22

excellent

it was great not to hear swearing for once, its removal really helped me get into the story

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  • DP Moass
  • 11-12-22

Almost good but MC infuriating

This book has managed to rouse my ire enough to leave a review by almost being good but falling short. The story is good, the narration excellent and the world compelling.

But oh the main character is so infuriating. He never manages to take agency and make his own decisions. Every encounter is scream, paralysis, flail and panic. He is so pathetic it made me want to enter the book, beat him to death with a shovel and put him out of all our misery. I understand that pathos is supposed to trigger empathy but beyond a certain point it just becomes pathetic again. If the mentions of the MC screaming were removed the book would be a third shorter!

I am certain from this book that the author has a good book in them but it wasn't this one.

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  • Aleksandra Popovic
  • 11-05-22

Hope this journey lasts

I absolutely loved it! Not the narrator though. But the book itself is so full of interesting characters, worldbuilding and action that even the narrator was passable. So, when is the next novel in the series coming out?

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  • ryan burnside
  • 11-03-22

excellent

loved the book, pulled me if fast and kept me entertained throughout. can't wait for the next one.

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  • TW
  • 10-27-22

Excellent Promise as an Author

An interesting, curious dive into another modern day urban fantasy world. Despite having the potential to be case in the shadow of the Dresden Files, James J. Butcher knocks this out the park. Excellent beginning to (hopefully) and incredible series

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-18-22

Not bad for a first book

You can definitely feel an influence from his dad.. one or two areas you feel like you may have heard something similar before. But the characters are great, it’s well written and over all I’m genuinely looking forward to the next one. I’d say give it a go

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  • Futurecow
  • 12-02-22

Excellent first book

James J. Butcher shows he is a talented writer in his own right, and not carried by his last name. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel.

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  • Daniel
  • 11-08-22

Struggle Town

Wow. This was a real struggle to get through. Interesting premise and has heaps of potential, but….
I hate the MC. He’s a weak, whiny coward who just doesn’t get any better throughout the entire book. A good drinking game to get hammered would be to take a swig every time Grimsby screams or is frozen in fear. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel towards the end, but it’s too little, well and truly too late. If this book was about The Huntsman then maybe I’d care what happened more, but it isn’t and I don’t. Narration was fine but it can’t redeem a mediocre story with a truly unlikable lead.