Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he's getting more than he bargained for.
A duel with the Red Court of Vampires' champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards...
Professional hit men using Harry for target practice...
The missing Shroud of Turin...
A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified...
Not to mention the return of Harry's ex-girlfriend Susan, who's still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.
Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you're charging.
During a taping session of The Larry Fowler Show, Harry Dresden meets Father Vincent, a Vatican priest, who hires Dresden to recover the stolen Shroud of Turin. And, São Paulo University Professor Ortega, a Red Court Vampire noble, challenges Dresden to a duel to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court. Later, Murphy hires Dresden to investigate the corpse who apparently died of every disease known to man. Outside, Dresden is attacked by the Denarian Ursiel, a Fallen Angel attached to a mortal host. Michael Carpenter and two other Knights of the Cross, Shiro and Sanya, rescue him and ask him to drop the case, but Dresden refuses.
In his Lab, Dresden consults an oracle spirit. He learns the knights received an angelic prophecy: if Dresden is involved, he will die. However, they did not receive the whole prophecy, which states that if Dresden is not involved, all the Knights will die, as will everyone in the city of Chicago. The Archive, a little girl containing the sum of humanity's written knowledge, and her bodyguard Kincaid, arrive to make the arrangements for Ortega's duel. A neutral mediator selected by the White Council, she is the guarantor that the duel is conducted by the Accords.
Later, Dresden tracks the Shroud to a boat and is captured and handcuffed by the thieves while trying to recover it. Deirdre, another Denarian, attacks the boat and kills one of the thieves. Dresden fools the Denarian into taking a decoy safe that does not contain the Shroud and leaving. The surviving thief, Anna Valmont, steals Dresden's black leather duster and flees with the Shroud.
Susan, who has been in touch, is waiting outside McAnally's with a tux and a limo. She has tickets to a high society art sales charity event run by John Marcone, where the Shroud will likely be sold. Marcone attempts to evict them, but they evade capture and locate Anna. The sale is interrupted by the Denarians, who seize the Shroud and kidnap Dresden.
Nicodemus, leader of the Denarians and father of Deirdre, pressures Dresden to join with the Denarian Lasciel or die. Dresden refuses. Before Nicodemus can kill him, Shiro arrives and trades himself for Dresden for 24 hours. Dresden is almost re-captured, but Susan, enhanced in battle from her semi-vampire status, fights Deirdre to a standstill and allows him to escape. Susan and Dresden are pursued back to Dresden's apartment, where he activates the powerful defenses. However, this means Susan cannot leave until dawn. She is nearly driven mad by the scent of the blood dripping from his wounds. To save his life and hers, Dresden magically binds Susan and has sex with her in order to quell her hunger. She informs him that The Fellowship of Saint Giles is an organization of half-turned humans she is working with in South America.
In the morning, Susan and Dresden leave the boarding house and seek out the Knights. They discover that Father Forthill has an Eye of Thoth tattoo similar to the one on the unidentified corpse in the morgue, which Forthill and Vincent received together. Dresden deduces that Vincent is a phony, the Knights defeat Saluriel posing as Vincent, and Dresden forces him to reveal that Nicodemus' plan is to create a deadly plague curse, powered by the Shroud. The spell will be cast that evening at the airport. As an international travel hub, O'Hare Airport is an excellent place to disseminate their plague.
With Susan as his new second, Dresden heads to Wrigley Field to fight his duel with Ortega. Overpowered, Ortega draws a weapon but is shot by Martin. A swarm of Red Court vampires surge onto the ball field, attacking everyone and covering Ortega's escape. Dresden races to the airport with the Knights to save Shiro and stop the plague curse, finding him severely tortured and near death. Shiro entrusts Fidelacchius to Dresden, telling him to pass it on to the right person. Dying, Shiro states that Nicodemus is going to Saint Louis by train to spread the plague curse, which can be stopped by taking the Shroud from Nicodemus.
Dresden enlists the aid of Marcone and Ms. Gard to catch up to the Saint Louis train. Dresden, Marcone, and the Knights battle the Denarians to retrieve the Shroud. Thanks to a hint from the dying Shiro, Dresden finds Nicodemus' weakness (his noose) and takes the Shroud, cancelling the plague, but fails to kill him. Dresden and Michael almost die while escaping from the train, but Marcone rescues them.
Dresden recuperates in Michael's home. He receives a two-week old letter from Shiro. He had been diagnosed with cancer and came to Chicago knowing he would sacrifice himself to save Dresden. This news comforts Michael and Sanya.
The next day, Ebenezar calls and tells Dresden to watch the news. In a freak accident, an old Soviet satellite, Kosmos 5, crashed into Casaverde, Honduras—Ortega's secret fortress. There are no survivors. Dresden realizes that McCoy has deliberately killed Ortega with the satellite.
Dresden trails Marcone to a secluded, rural hospital. He discovers that Marcone had the Shroud stolen hoping to cure a comatose girl. Dresden tells Marcone he can have three days to see if the Shroud will heal the girl. After that, the Shroud must be returned to the Church. Marcone agrees.
After the Shroud is anonymously returned to Father Forthill at St Mary's, Dresden goes to Michael's house for Sanya's bon voyage barbecue. Nicodemius drives by, tossing a coin into the yard. Michael's youngest son Harry is about to pick it up, when Dresden snatches it just in time to prevent the child from becoming a Denarian. Dresden rushes home to bury Lasciel's coin in his basement lab.