17-year-old Cas Lowood is carrying on the family business after his father’s death. He travels the country, never staying in one place too long, honing his craft. While many would think this sounds ideal, there is one disadvantage: potential death. Cas is a mortal with the ability to help the dead find their final peace – even if that peace comes at the edge of Cas’s blade, the athame.
Now Cas and his white-witch mother have come to a new city tracking another restless spirit the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood. She’s been haunting her family’s home since the 1950s, filling the community with ghost-stories and killing anyone who sets foot in her home. This “assignment” is different from the others. Cas has more support this time than just his oddball mother and his spirit-sensing cat – he’s actually making friends rather than pushing people away. This “kill” is also supposed to be his last before he journeys to avenge his father’s death at the hands of an unholy spirit in Louisiana. Most bizarre of all, Anna – who is the perfect combination of creepy, crazy and cross – spares Cas’s life when she has not shown mercy to anyone in almost 50 years. Cas is determined to find out why.
Blake’s story is a little sleepy after the initial action-packed opening. It’s hard to follow a near-death, careening-car-off-the-side-of-the-bridge scene with a more tired new-kid-in-town template. But things get moving again nicely as Cas begins to meet some stereotypical high school kids who aren’t so stereotypical. The characters that could be cardboard-cutouts actually have some depth. The feeling that both Cas and Anna can never have what they really want propels the story along and the ultimate resolution leaves a bittersweet, romantic tang in the air. Overall, it’s a pleasing read that is difficult to put down. THUMBS UP to Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.