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Anna Dressed in Blood    by Kendare Blake Amazon.com order for
Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'd read good things about Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood, so picked it up with interest, despite the fact that I don't like gruesome reads or horror - and it sounded like both those elements were involved. But I loved it from the first page, and want more now I've finished the last.

Theseus Cassio 'Cas' Lowood (who tells the story) has a mission in live - he comes from a long line of ghost hunters, who 'work in the dark, killing what should have stayed dead.' Cas inherited his father's athame (an ancient knife of mysterious origins) after his dad died horribly while fighting a powerful, evil voodoo entity in Baton Rouge. Now Cas, his mom (a Wiccan who crafts and sells occult supplies online and does 'tarot card readings and aura ckeansing over the phone') and their unruly cat Tybalt (who can 'see and hear things that are already dead') are constantly on the move, following tips from contacts, so that Cas can deal with the unquiet dead.

As the book opens, Cas dispatches a murderous, hitchhiking ghost in North Carolina before packing for Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he plans to kill Anna Korlov (known locally as Anna Dressed in Blood). Anna was murdered in 1958 at age sixteen, and the case was never solved. Cas starts by doing his homework. He signs up at a local high school and befriends the 'queen bee', Carmel Jones. Though he does get information, he also makes an enemy of Carmel's Neanderthal ex-boyfriend Mike and his cohorts. And he meets Thomas, an occasional telepath and nerd, who sent the tip about Anna and wants to help. Cas also gets to know Thomas's salty old grandfather Starling, whose skills come in handy. Thomas has been having the kind of headaches that warn of 'something bad' about to happen.

And bad things do happen, very bad indeed. An unpleasant prank goes awry and a teen dies. But when Anna has a chance to kill Cas, she abstains, which she's never done before. Cas becomes obsessed with Anna, decides he needs to learn her back story, and starts digging. He enlists others to attempt a spell to find out what really happened to her. But, though they learn the truth, Cas cannot bring himself to dispatch Anna ... which is just as well, as he soon needs her help against something much worse than Anna ever was or could be. The tale hits a crescendo in a final confrontation, with Cas's life on the line. Afterwards he and his friends explain their injuries as a 'bear attack' and Cas wonders if Anna is lost to him forever. He's going to find out.

Anna Dressed in Blood was a powerful opening salvo for a new supernatural series that is headed for success. The male point of view made a nice change, as did the empowerment of the female lead. This is the best paranormal YA novel I've read this year and I'm anxious to find out where Kendare Blake takes it next. Highly recommended!

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