Paranormal investigations are Harry Dresden's business, and Chicago is his beat as he tries to bring law and order to a world of wizards and monsters that exist alongside everyday life. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don't believe in magic, the Special Investigations department of the Chicago PD knows better.
Karrin Murphy is the head of SI and Harry's good friend. So when a killer vampire threatens to destroy Murphy's reputation unless Harry does her bidding, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler (whatever that is) and all the power that comes with it. Now Harry Dresden is in a race against time -- and six merciless necromancers -- to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead...."
Karrin Murphy ventures on a vacation to Hawaii with Jared Kincaid, while Harry Dresden is left in Chicago. Dresden is contacted by a Black Court vampire Mavra who is searching for the Word of Kemmler. If Dresden does not deliver, Murphy will pay the price. While checking out a corpse in the morgue, he and Waldo Butters are attacked by a necromancer. The two manage to escape alive and Dresden briefs Butters on the workings of the supernatural world. He leaves Butters at his home under the protection of his wards and Thomas Raith, and heads off to find information. Dresden visits Artemis Bock, a bookseller at Bock Ordered Books, and meets Shiela Starr who helps him find Die Lied der Erlking. On the way out he is attacked by a strange man called Cowl, and his assistant Kumori. Dresden and Cowl fight, and Dresden manages to make a quick gettaway with Billy Borden.
Back at Billy's place, Dresden overhears some of Georgia Borden's concerns about Dresden's behavior. Dresden tells them about the consequences of picking up Lasciel's coin. Dresden investigates further, and gathers more clues. With the help of Mortimer Lindquist, he discovers there are necromatic hot spots across Chicago. Dresden follows the hot spots on Lindquist's map and one leads him to the Field Museum where Dresden overhears parts of a murder investigation. A visiting Professor, Dr. Bartlesby who was examining a collection of Kahokian artifacts, was found murdered that morning. Detective Henry Rawlins shows him pictures of Bartlesby two assistants: Alicia Nelson and Li Xian.
The second time Dresden visits Bock's shop, he is attacked by Corpsetaker, another necromancer who had been posing as Alicia Nelson, who was Dr. Bartlesby's assistant. As the Corpsetaker tries to invade Dresden's mind, he willingly calls upon Hellfire. Dresden barely manages to escape with the help of Gentleman Marcone and Gard who conveniently show up and save him; however, he has lost the Erlking book. Marcone willingly gives Dresden names of two EMTs: Jason Lamar and Gary Simmons, Marcone drops Dresden off at Cook County Hospital.
While being attended to at Cook County Hospital, Jason Lamar tells Dresden how the necromancer Kumori brought one of Marcone's men back to life. This explains why Kumori did not get involved in Dresden's fight with Cowl outside of Bock's book shop & leads Dresden to question whether the use of necromancy should always be considered black magic.
Back at his basement apartment Dresden, Thomas, and Butters come under the assault of Grevane and Quintus Cassius. and a not so small army of zombies. They are seeking the data from the USB jump drive Dresden and Butters had retrieved from corpse of Bony Tony Mendoza and in the ensuing battle manage to overcome Dresden's wards and capture Butters. Dresden trades the information for Butters. After Corpsetaker and Li Xian arrive and do battle with Grevane and Liver Spots, Dresden, Thomas and Butters manage to escape. They seek refuge at Murphy's home.
After taking refuge in Murphy's home, Dresden pisses off the Erl King by trying to prevent the Wild Hunt in Chicago (which backfires), then finds the Kemmler's book on the Darkhollow in the Field Museum after Butters discovers the numbers from the corpse he was working on earlier correspond to coordinates for latitude and longitude. Cassius "snakeboy" attacks Dresden in the museum and Butters and Mouse save him, earning Dresden a death curse, "Die Alone."
Dresden, having read the book using Lashiel's help, learns necromancy and raises Dinosaur Sue for the final battle, with Butters drumming for him using the kit he had for Octoberfest. In the attack, the Corpsetaker dies (setting her up to be a ghost later) after taking Captain Luccio's body, and Dresden interrupts the ritual to eat Chicago and become a tiny god before Cowl can finish it. Bob, who helped write the books on necromancy, is returned to Dresden. Dresden then gives the book to Mavra, and tells her if she ever threatens him or his friends again, he'll pull out all the stops on his journey to being an Evil Overlord and he'll aim all of it at her.