Abundantly original, marvelously inventive and enormous fun, this can stand alongside the best horror fiction out there. We...

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD

Life can get tough for a boy who kills ghosts.

Teeth-chattering suspense and suppressed chuckles might attack readers in this superior black comedy/adventure. Theseus Cassio Lowood has inherited his father’s athame, a magical knife that can slice and dice ghosts to bits. He only kills ghosts who kill humans, but plenty of those lurk everywhere, forcing Cas and his white-witch mother to move constantly. When he answers a call to dispatch Anna, a ghost that’s brutally dismembered dozens of ill-fated folks who stepped into her house, for the first time Cas makes some friends. These help him until one steals the athame, an unfortunate choice. Meanwhile, Cas learns that Anna won’t kill him, so he enlists her aid in tracking down the voodoo spirit that literally ate his father. Blake populates the story with a nice mixture of personalities, including Anna, and spices it with plenty of gallows humor, all the while keeping the suspense pounding. The comedy works even better when juxtaposed against serious suspense, as Cas quips such lines as “I hate it when they don’t have eyes.” Matter-of-fact Anna leavens the comedy even as the suspense boils into terror. (Don't go in the basement.)

Abundantly original, marvelously inventive and enormous fun, this can stand alongside the best horror fiction out there. We demand sequels. (Paranormal adventure. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2865-6

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in.

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE

A young woman’s return to her monied boarding school is haunted by the trauma of her girlfriend’s recent death and the school’s rumored history involving witchcraft in this contemporary thriller.

Felicity Morrow’s senior year was cut short after her girlfriend Alex died, and her decision to return to the Dalloway School because “being friendless at Dalloway was better than being friendless anywhere else” makes clear her feelings of isolation. It’s seemingly inevitable that she’ll be drawn into the orbit of infamous new student Ellis Haley, who, despite her young age, has already written a Pulitzer-winning novel. Amid a fantastical, darkly atmospheric haze of cigarette smoke and hard alcohol, Felicity agrees to assist Ellis in her research about the Dalloway Five, girls whose gruesome deaths centuries earlier at the school are shrouded in mystery and who were the subject of her own abandoned senior thesis. Richly imagined queer characters, including Ellis’ older nonbinary sibling, Quinn, are the stars of this story, which incrementally reveals truths about Alex’s death as it winds the bond between Felicity and Ellis ever tighter, spinning a tale rife with literary references, magnetic romance, and occasionally melodramatic but menacing gothic tropes out to its end. The protagonists are cued White; there is ethnic diversity in secondary and background characters.

A layered, stylized, brooding mystery that will draw readers in. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30582-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A promising premise that doesn’t quite deliver.

GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST

An abandoned carnival on an island connected to a British seaside town by a milelong pier is the setting for this atmospheric thriller.

Ava receives an invitation to go to Portgrave Pier at 8 p.m.—followed by the ominous question, can you keep a secret? When she arrives, she finds that she was not the only person to receive such a note. In addition, each invitation contains a seemingly innocuous photo that relates to something the recipient is hiding. Ava suspects this is a blackmail scheme, but who could be behind it: Esme the ice queen, bad boy Noah, or even her best friend, Jolie? The targets end up on the island, Allhallows Rock, and then the pier collapses, leaving them stranded with one of their number lying injured on the rocks. Ava feels time playing tricks on her while others are saying creepy, nonsensical things. Little does the group know that they are all playing a deadly game masterminded by Whispers, the man in the mirrors, who will torment the group with their secrets until they give in. The third-person narrative centers on Ava and nine other teens. Despite the interesting concept, creepy villain, and eerie setting, the large number of underdeveloped characters makes the story difficult to follow. However, the sizable cast offers an opportunity for some discussion of struggles like substance abuse, date rape, and disordered eating. Olive-skinned Ava has wavy dark hair; there is some ethnic diversity among the other characters.

A promising premise that doesn’t quite deliver. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72824-541-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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