Chas Lowood is a ghost slayer, who travels around the country, seeking out miscreant, murderous necroplasm that can only be put down via his special knife, an athame. At the novel's beginning, he's about to deal with the ghost of a hitchhiker. This particular ghost is the shade of a young man who was murdered by a group of thugs who gave him a ride. Now he preys on drivers foolish enough to pick him up.
Once he dispatches this ghost, Chas and his mother head for great white north, Thunder Bay, Ontario. His prey? A ghost with the titular name, Anna Dressed in Blood. Decades before, Anna was murdered on her way to a school dance. Now she lives in her childhood home, an abandoned building on the edge of town, where she dismembers anyone who wanders onto the premises.
Chas, being school age, does the expected thing when he rolls into town. He enrolls in school and does the not-so-ordinary seventeen-year-old kid making a feeble attempt at looking ordinary thing. His first act is to cozy up to the popular girl, Carmel. This immediately pisses off her ex-boyfriend, Will, and his small posse of wanna-be high school heroes. Chas also makes friends with the resident weird kid, Thomas, a psychic who lives with his grandfather, a magic/voodoo practitioner. This quickly culminates with Chas, Carmel, Will and entourage, going out to Anna's home one evening after a party.
Things, as one might imagine, go wrong....people are dismembered, Anna gets her bloodstained, ghost on. Most important, however, is that Chas meets Anna and she, inexplicably (it's never explained, really) doesn't want to tear him limb for limb. And thus their love story is begun.
Anna Dressed in Blood is one of those books where I struggle to define my impressions. It's not a bad book, though, not extraordinary, either. I really liked Chas's voice, particularly in the first half of the book. For what it's worth, Chas is written too old for his age; he's just a tad too world weary and wise (ass). But I like a snappy protagonist with a bit of edge, especially his sardonic description of life in a small town and high school dramas.*
I kind of like that Chas's mother is a "cool" mom, not an irrational ninny who is desperately trying to keep her ghost killing son from doing his job. But, frankly, there's cool mom and there's a complete absence of maternal instinct. Though she gets a little freaked out toward the end, when it seems her kid might actually join the ranks of the restless dead, she's a little too uninvolved in his life, letting him come and go whenever and however he pleases. Granted, seventeen is almost eighteen, but most of us still needed a tad bit of adult guidance well into our mid-twenties. Plus, her husband, Chas's dad, was killed in the same line of work. One might expect her to be a smidge more concerned about her son.
The big fail here for me was the love story. I have no idea what these two crazy kids saw in each other. Maybe it's because Anna is a ghost and therefore, Chas can't be having typical teenage wet dreams about her (actually, he totally can, but he doesn't), so the romance is utterly sexless and totally tepid. Chas never seems all that physically attracted to her. And Anna's only sign of interest is a disinterest in slaughtering him and shoving his body in the basement.
In the end, I think this is the book's main failing. Where it could have gone with the Romeo meets dead Juliet aspect, given a feverish depiction of forbidden, teenage love, it played it too safe.
Worth reading, but not as engaging as I hoped.
*(Revise to add that Chas's flippancy, is also a significant flaw. It's cute, but in a book where people and pets actually get killed, glib can quickly turn to callous.)