A Rookie Magic Auditor Finds His Footing in James J. Butcher’s Long Past Dues

A Rookie Magic Auditor Finds His Footing in James J. Butcher’s Long Past Dues

If James J. Butcher’s name sounds familiar, particularly in a “writer of urban fantasy books” context, that’s because he’s the son of best-selling Dresden Files author Jim Butcher. The younger Butcher continues his Unorthodox Chronicles with the follow-up to last year’s Dead Man’s Hand — and Gizmodo has a first look to share today.

The book is called Long Past Dues, it arrives October 10, and here’s what it’s about:

Against all odds, Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby has become an Auditor, enforcing laws about magic for Boston’s Department of Unorthodox Affairs. But Grimsby soon realises the daily grind of his job is far removed from the glamour he imagined. Overlooked for every exciting case, Grimsby tires of being told to handle mundane magical troubles, and appropriates a case file intended for a friend.

Alongside Leslie Mayflower, the temporarily unretired Huntsman, Grimsby aims to crack the case and discover the origin of a strange, unfinished ritual — one that seems to imitate the handiwork of a foe Mayflower put down twenty years ago.

Together, they’ll have to deal with escaped werewolves, a cursed artefact, and a perilous journey to the mysterious subterranean city below Boston, all to uncover the shocking truth. At any cost, Grimsby must stop this ritual from finally being completed. Yet the cost may be paid not by himself but by his friends. . . .

Here’s a look at the full cover, illustrated by Chris McGrath and designed by Adam Auerback (and making its debut here on Gizmodo!), followed by an exclusive excerpt from the first chapter.

Image: Ace Hardcover
Image: Ace Hardcover
Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby slid his enchanted bicycle to a stop on the cracked pavement leading up to the house’s sun-scoured door. Green sparks crackled from the rear gears as his Torque spell tried nudging the wheel forward, but he held it in place with the handbrakes as he gauged the structure. This particular building was worn, even for the quaint standards of Hyde Park, just a narrow collection of chipped brick, cracked timber, and rusted fixtures, not unlike the others crammed in on either side of it.

He wiped at the sweat on his brow with the loose sleeve of his oversized suit-jacket before pulling a folded paper from his pocket. He double-checked the address, then leaned his bike against the short wall that guarded the narrow yard of wild, overgrown grass, propping the ever-spinning wheel up off the ground, where it spun in the still afternoon air like a windmill. Even from the broken-hinged gate, he could smell warm spring air was dampened by the odor of mould and something wet and pungent.

His steps ground over sun-cracked concrete and creaked on the old porch as he approached the door, and all the way he couldn’t help but feel eyes on him. It made a shiver crawl through the gnarled burn scars along his left side, like ice water veins from his fingertips all the way up the side of his neck. He scratched at the sensation and shook away the nervous feeling, forcing himself to remain as rigid and professional as he could.

He was an Auditor now, after all.

Though it didn’t exactly feel like he had always imagined it would.

He rapped his knuckles on the weathered door, the rough surface stripped clean of paint by sunsets and neglect. His knock sounded small, almost shallow, and no reply came from within.

He scowled and knocked more firmly, making his knuckles ache, until he was sure the occupant must have heard. It was the last name on his list, and he wouldn’t return to the Department before checking it off. Menial task or not, he’d get the job done.

Footsteps creaked inside the house, drawing slowly closer. Grimsby saw the peephole in the door darken as someone on the other side peered through, then heard the clatter and clack of multiple deadbolts and locks unwind and recede.

The door opened a crack, and a portly face with reddened eyes and lanky locks of dark, stringy hair peered out from within, “Yeah?”

“Samuel Goode?” Grimsby asked, trying to look imposing yet respectable as he imitated Auditors he had met in the past, though he had chosen to forego their traditional white field-masks in favour of his glasses. The masks were for when things got ugly, and he expected today to be as banal as any other.

The man’s face was smooth and shiny with sweat, but the circles around his eyes were deep and dark, cracked with more sleepless lines than the pavement outside, “Tentatively. Who’s asking?”

“I am Auditor Grimsby,” he said, still feeling a thrill of excitement at that particular pair of words, though it had slightly dulled over the last few weeks. Making house calls and riding his bike wasn’t exactly what he had in mind a few months ago, when he received his badge, although it had been much more than he had expected before that.

Goode eyed Grimsby’s outfit and scoffed, “A while to go for Halloween, kid. Come back when you fit in daddy’s suit.”

He began to close the door, but Grimsby slid his foot in the path. He instantly regretted the decision as the man’s idle strength nearly twisted his foot against the door’s frame. Samuel Goode was a lot stronger than he looked, though Grimsby supposed most Therians must be.

He bit back a yelp and drew his Department badge, a bifold of leather with a pentacle embedded in a silver shield within and his name below, “I’m afraid I’m a real Auditor, Mr. Goode,” he said, trying to keep his voice straight over the pain of a likely-stubbed toe, “I just need a moment of your time.”

Goode looked at the badge in disbelief, then back at Grimsby, “If you’re a real Auditor, where’s your partner? I thought you guys never fly solo — .”

Grimsby felt his stomach drop at the mention of a partner, and bit back an unprofessional reply. Before he could come up with an appropriate substitute, however, Goode glanced behind him and a grin curled his face.

“Wait,” he said, his smile wolfish, “Did you ride a bike here?”

Grimsby tried to keep his face even, but felt his fingers squeeze tight around the badge as he put it away, “May I come in?”

Goode sighed, though a smirk still littered his face, “Fine, whatever, Mister Auditor.”

He opened the door wider and stepped aside. He wore a pair of stained cargo shorts and a T-shirt that had a sloppy, indecipherable logo on it, though it was of a style that looked to be for a heavy metal band. Now close to him, Grimsby could tell the odor he smelled outside had come from Goode himself.

Grimsby entered, though the house was so dark it took his eyes a moment to adjust. Every window had been coated with layers of curtains, bed sheets held up by thumbtacks, or even tinfoil glued to the glass. The few threads of light that managed to stray their way inside shone in the drifting dust like crossbeams.

Sam must have noticed Grimsby examining the source of the dimness, “The light gives me a headache. It’s part of my… condition,” he said, “And no, I’m not a psychopath.”

“Oh, good, because that’s exactly what a non-psychopath would say,” Grimsby said, shaking his head, “No, Mr. Goode, I’m here because — “

“You’re my new zookeeper?” He asked.

“Well — I wouldn’t call it that. As a registered Therian, I’m here to insure you’re prepared for your coming period of mandatory asylum. I need to — ”

Goode interrupted him in a stuffy voice, “‘Make certain I am ready for a period of stay lasting no less than three days, beginning not later than twenty-four hours before the apex of the lunar cycle’ blah, blah, blah,” He sighed bitterly, using his hand to mimic a sock puppet talking, “Yeah, kid, I’ve heard the speech before. Every month, actually, so yeah, I know why you’re here. So, which is it?”

Grimsby frowned, uncertain if he had missed some context, “I’m sorry?”

“If you’re here, that means you’re on Department house-call duty. Which means you’re either the new guy, or you drew the short straw. So, which is it?”

“Well, I — ” he began, standing up a little straighter.

“New guy, of course,” Sam scoffed, “Listen up, new guy. I know the deal, ok? I’ve been going to the cage since I was thirteen. I haven’t missed it once, and I’m not going to miss it this time.”

Grimsby felt annoyance crawl into his jaw and prickle his scalp. He supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised at the flippant attitude. Goode was a Therian with a spotless record of Asylum attendance, it was why the task to make sure he was prepared to for the coming full-moon was one of Grimsby’s many dully routine tasks. He supposed he would be annoyed too if someone with a badge showed up every night to remind him to brush his teeth.

Though the attitude wasn’t what bothered him.

What bothered him was Sam had been completely correct in his assumption.

Grimsby was the new guy.

It had been six months since he got his badge, and he had been doing nothing but busy work since. House calls, recording complaints, writing citations for minor magical offences, like kids hexing their teacher’s hair to fall out. His most exciting moment to date was when he to corral a rogue Familiar, though it had only been a rabbit, much more manageable than some of the others he had faced in the past.

Much more.

He had dreamed of being an Auditor all his life, imagining what it would be like during his long shifts as a minimum-wage children’s magician. He had concocted every scenario and image in his head.

But he never once dreamed it would be boring.

Excerpt from James J. Butcher’s Long Past Dues reprinted by permission of Ace Hardcover.

Long Past Dues by James J. Butcher releases October 10; you can pre-order a copy here.

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