Janelle and I met through a mutual friend on FB (whom neither of us are friends with anymore, natch) and discovered a mutual love of the Dresden Files. We talked. We conjectured. We bonded. When Skin Games came out, we conceived a plan to go to Redondo Beach for a book signing on opening day. I would drive to Pismo to her place, she would drive us down south, we would get a hotel the night before so we could get the books on our Kindle Apps the second it was released (9:00 Pacific Standard Time!), then we would buy copies and get them signed and basically have a Dresden geek fest for two days.
All was well until we climbed into the car and she told me that she didn’t like the character of Lieutenant Karrin Murphy.
What. WHAT?? That was almost the end right there, I have to tell you. How could she hate someone so beloved, someone so important, someone so faithful and true. We argued, debated, muttered, and passionately orated on the subject for the entire drive between Pismo and Redondo. As we hit the naturally hideous traffic in Southern CA, this took maybe 7 hours, thoroughly enjoying ourselves the whole time.
It is incumbent on me to give credit where it is due, Janelle is smart and knows Dresden better than most anyone, she is erudite, and she lays out a good argument. But she she isn’t correct this time. I’ll tell you why.
First…she is basing this on the evidence of the first three Books—Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril. And if it were just those three books, I might agree with her. But character development matters, and Jim Butcher has certainly developed her character through the series. More cogent to this argument, he has developed Harry’s character.
I am not going to rehash Janelle’s arguments as you can and should read them for yourselves. Instead, I am going to lay out the defense.
Murphy is at the core, a cop. And a cop who knows very little of the Supernatural world. She knows it exists, that is why she is smart enough to ask Harry for help. But her primary drive is the protection of the people of Chicago and taking down the perpetrators. So in Storm Front when people are killed by gruesome magic, and Harry is the only Wizard around, what is she to think? Especially when she is being stonewalled, as I will discuss shortly.
And yet, she still cared for Harry. Remember the scene in Storm Front when she took him home, tucked him into bed, left him money? All the times she brought him coffee? There are many tiny scenes where she shows her care. In fact, once you move beyond the first three, those scenes come up with regularity and in more profound ways. Remember how Murphy willingly helped Harry in Proven Guilty, KNOWING she was going to face serious consequences at work, and did it anyway? We see more of that, and it will come up again in future posts as we move through the series.
Harry didn’t, or couldn’t, tell her enough of what was going on. She didn’t know about the White Council. Or the laws of Magic. She didn’t know about the Doom of Damocles over his head. Harry might have had reasons he couldn’t tell her, but it means that the information she was working from and basing decisions on was very limited. And because of that, because he lied to her (and admitted as such, not hiding it from her), what was she to do? You can only make the best decisions you have based on the information you have, and Murphy was being left in the dark. And when someone lies to you…why should you trust that person? I sure wouldn’t. It is especially difficult because she considered Harry to be an ally and a friend, so this betrayal cut even deeper. And it WAS a betrayal. Dresden made his choices with the best of intentions, but he absolutely betrayed their friendship. I don’t know about you, but I don’t react well when a friend lies to my face and betrays our confidence.
This is actually a major factor in the early books, and not just with Murphy. You see it with Butters and Billy Borden as well. Harry is forever conflicted between not wanting to lie to his friends, but not wanting to tell them the big, scary information that could get them killed. And it never turns out well. Things run much smoother when he just tells people everything. This is another area where Harry’s character develops through the series.
She had very good reasons for not being in a romantic relationship with Harry. I think of that elevator conversation in Proven Guilty. The fact that she will age normally and he will not? Very good reason not to get involved. Life isn’t as simple as I want this guy, let’s go for it. And Murphy is practical. We also get to see this slowly develop and change over the books, where both of them start to be willing to take the risk of getting romantically involved, even knowing the cost. I find it sweet, really, in my deep dark secret romantic heart.
Notice how Murphy appears to Dresden when he is using his sight
“The door burst open. Murphy came through it, her eyes living flames of azure blue, her hair a golden coronet around her. She held a blazing sword in her hand and she shone so bright and beautiful and terrifying in her anger that it was hard to see. The Sight, I realized, dimly. I was seeing her for who she was.”
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher. Page number varies by format.
Does that seem like someone who has ill intent or is going to betray him? The sight reveals truth. And Murphy is a warrior, an Avenging Angel, a protector. If she had ill intent towards Harry, the sight would have shown that.
I am going to stop here because so far, we are focused on the first three books of the series. I have much to say (Arctis Tor, Chichen Itza, AHEM), about their relationship and connections in future posts, but all in good time.
Elizabeth McKeighen loves Murphy more than almost any other character ever.